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Fresh produce abounds during Year of the Monkey

Asian cuisine continues to gain traction with American consumers. Several companies shared their insights about Asian produce as people prepare to celebrate Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, Feb. 8-22.

Jim Provost, owner of I Love Produce in Kelton, PA, said the use of fresh ginger is gaining in popularity.

“The 2016 ginger supply will be ample worldwide with China having another oversupply year,” he told The Produce News. “Prices will be advantageous for consumers and for running promotions. Retailers often overlook ginger as a smaller volume item in the produce department, and one that has an inelastic demand. But IRI data over the last five years show fresh ginger growing at a 12 percent rate per year.”AsianProduce1I Love Produce has been working with garlic partners in Spain to bring new items to the domestic marketplace.

He said retailers can be proactive in promoting ginger, especially with Chinese New Year ads.

“I believe this trend is similar to what the garlic industry saw 30 years ago, and now garlic is an important part of any retailer’s promotions schedule,” Provost stated.

Organic ginger from Peru, which has a stronger flavor than Chinese ginger, also has helped to grow the organic ginger category. “The costing this year will still enable for a bulk sale at $3.99 to $4.99 per pound retail price,” he noted.

I Love Produce also markets Asian pears, which Provost said has become a category unto itself. Varieties include Singo, Golden, Ya and Fragrant pears. The marriage of the eat brighter! campaign and Singo pears has enabled some retailers to carry the variety for the first time.AsianProduce2Christopher Ranch LLC has been working with ginger growers in Hilo, HI, for several decades. The company’s Hawaiian ginger season, which spans approximately six months, is ramping up.

Provost expects 2016 will also be a strong year for garlic sales.

“The U.S., China and Argentina have reduced crops this past season, so demand is exceeding supply at the moment and prices are strong,” he said, adding that I Love Produce is also working with garlic partners in Spain to being some new products to the marketplace.

At Christopher Ranch LLC, based in Gilroy, CA, Marketing Director Patsy Ross said the company’s Hawaiian ginger program has just begun. The company is a leader in the growing and marketing of fresh items such as garlic and ginger, providing its customers with an array of bulk, packaged and value-added items.

“Every year, we look forward to the Hawaiian ginger program,” she said. “We have handled Hawaiian ginger for decades and typically experience good quality and consistent supply for six months, from December through June.”

The company’s grower network produces Hawaiian ginger in the Hilo area. “Many of the growers remain the same. But there are new growers every year as well,” Ross said. “We have a manager in Hilo, Hawaii, that works with our growers and our packing operation.”

Ross said ginger has played an important role in the medicinal and culinary fields. “Ginger root has been mentioned in Chinese medical books dating back over 2,000 years,” she said. “Many people believe it is a remedy for everything from colds and flu to nausea and high cholesterol. Fresh ginger will add a bright flavor to meats, poultry, vegetables and sauces.”AsianProduce3Lakeside Organic Gardens LLC grows a variety of Asian produce on 500 acres in California’s Imperial Valley.

She added that fresh ginger hands, which should not be refrigerated, should be kept in a cool, dry place.

For over 50 years the Christopher family has been growing California garlic from its privately owned farms, with the goal of providing the highest quality, most flavorful, and healthy garlic available.

“California heirloom garlic is in high demand, and our expectations are that will continue through the winter,” Ross added.

Spice World Inc., located in Orlando, FL, has marketed garlic, shallots, ginger and specialty spices since 1949. “Spice World covers every aspect of the marketplace: retail, foodservice and industrial,” said Louis Hymel, director of purchasing and marketing. “Packaging for every market segment is met with packaging in both value and functionality.”

The company provides consumers with a number of value-added options that make it easy for these items to be incorporated into meal planning.

“Consumers are always looking for value-added items, especially value-added items that decrease kitchen prep time such as garlic and ginger,” Hymel told The Produce News. “Spice World’s squeeze garlic and our recently introduced squeeze ginger bring the ultimate value-added benefits to consumers today. These two products fit well into any recipes bringing full flavor when any garlic and ginger is needed. Everyone’s kitchen should always have garlic and ginger available in a moment at all times of need.”

Shallots are also gaining in popularity in the domestic kitchen, according to Hymel.

“Shallots have increased in demand over recent years with American consumers,” he said. “As cooks have discovered their wonderful flavor profile and various diversity in recipes, their flavor continues to excite the palate.”

Katie Bassman, marketing coordinator for Lakeside Organic Gardens LLC in Watsonville, CA, said the company grows an array of organic Asian produce on approximately 500 acres in the Imperial Valley.

“All of our produce that can be sold as Asian offerings are organic and quality — grown by one grower in California. This is what sets us apart from the pack,” she said.

Commodities falling within the Asian produce category or are cross-marketed are Napa cabbage, bok choy, baby bok choy, green cabbage, carrots, kale and sweet baby broccoli.

Bassman said kale, which is known for its nutritional value, is increasingly being incorporated into Asian dishes.

“Asian-themed soups, salads, stir fries and noodle bowls can all incorporate kale for a nutritious and delicious spin on the recipe,” she said.