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G&R farms expands Peruvian growing operations

By
Keith Loria

G&R Farms is a Peruvian sweet onion grower and has been growing in Peru for more than a decade.

“Sweet onions make up over 35 percent of the onion category making a sweet onion option available for the fall and winter months until domestic onions become available critical to category sales and success,” said Walt Dasher; vice president of the Glennville, GA-based company. “Thanks to the growth of Vidalia onions and the consistent quality and flavor, they played an important role in building the sweet onion category and establishing consumer interest and trust in a sweet onion because of its versatility and flavor.”

G&R Farms is a leading supplier of sweet onions year-round, bringing in onions from Peru from late September through March to have sweet onions available after and before the Vidalia season begins to avoid any gaps in supply.

“It’s important to remember that Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s currently winter heading into spring and weather this time of year can be challenging with lingering fog,” Dasher said. “But we are pleased to report that all crops are in good condition although slightly behind schedule by a week or two. However, Vidalia storage onions are still available and our early Peruvians will be here before you know it so no gaps in the sweet onion market are expected.”

In 2022, G&R Farms made some improvements to its Peruvian growing operations, including an expanded organic acreage, expanded packing shed facilities, new dryers and upgrading packing equipment.

Success with Peruvian onions, Dasher noted, comes from having a consistent supply, quality and volume regardless of the season or the location.

“Staying on top of changes in production, technology and sustainability is also critical,” he said. “In fact, we employ a full-time crop production manager, Cliff Riner, who came to us from the University of Georgia where he headed up the onion breeding program. He is probably the foremost industry expert in Vidalia and sweet onion production and varieties which really allows us to stay on the cutting edge of new developments and constantly trial new varieties and production techniques that further hone our quality.”

The company also has a full-time production manager in Peru who works closely with the production team in the states and oversees the Peruvian farming operations, ensuring the Peruvian quality and flavor mirrors that of the Vidalia crop.

“For the past two years through the pandemic, the category was over performing previous years with more consumers cooking at home, and overall that trend has continued and we still see strong sales, just not as high as the previous year,” he said. “Consumers are experiencing a lot of financial pressure and many products are feeling that slow down.”

And while it may seem hard to believe, Dasher believes that inflation can be a positive trend for the category.

“Onions are a staple pantry item that many people use in cooking,” he said. “The fact that we’ve moved to more three-pound bags over the past several years gives consumers a lower price point. We can utilize value marketing tools like menu planning to help consumers make their dollars go farther with fresh pantry items that include sweet onions.”

Still, he sees the biggest opportunity for growth coming from companies who were well monetized or not overleveraged.

“With input costs so high, many farms may not have the ability to plant their total acreage and other farms with more access to operating capital will have the opportunity to partner with them to continue to expand acreage,” Dasher said. “We know that sweet onions are somewhat promotional dependent. They are a category favorite, but also come in at a higher price point than their yellow and white category companions. Retailers should look for more opportunities for both bag and bulk promotion both in-store and online to trigger impulse purchase.”

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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