Retailers can be assured that produce departments will be well stocked with fresh Asian items during Chinese New Year. The Year of the Goat officially begins on Feb. 19.
Patsy Ross, marketing director for Christopher Ranch LLC, said the Gilroy, CA-based company offers a variety of products to add flavor to any meal. “We handle fresh ginger year-round,” she told The Produce News. “We also have some processed ginger items, chopped ginger and garlic ginger stir fry.”
At the current time, Christopher Ranch is transitioning from South American-grown ginger to its Hawaiian ginger crop.“The Hawaiian ginger season normally runs from December through June,” she said. “The Hawaiian ginger is grown in the Hilo, Hawaii, area. We have worked with ginger growers in Hawaii for over 25 years.”
Trends at the consumer level have been favorable for Asian produce. “Interest in Asian cuisine has moved from every town in America having a Chinese food restaurant to Japanese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese foods both in restaurants and in grocery stores,” she commented. “Ginger is an important flavor profile in all types of Asian cuisine.”
Jim Provost, owner of I Love Produce in Kelton, PA, agreed. “Ginger is really growing in demand for its flavor and health benefits,” he stated. “Peru has become a major player in the world ginger market, and I Love Produce has helped significantly contribute to that growth. After China, Peru exported more ginger to the United States in 2014 than any other country. The quality of Peru ginger is the best in the world in terms of skin condition and flavor, and they have an excellent crop this year.”
I Love Produce also moves a variety of Asian pears, including Gingo, Golden and Ya, from China. “Asian pears are also growing in popularity,” he said, adding that the company is packaging Asian pears under the “Eat Brighter!” campaign. “We are the only company using Eat Brighter! to help sell Chinese pears,” he went on to say. “Kids love the juicy sweet flavor of Asian pears, so the Eat Brighter! campaign is a great way to promote this product to both children and their parents.”
The company also markets oriental sweet potatoes.
Lindsey Roberts, who handles marketing communications for Lakeside Organic Gardens, said the company grows organic Asian produce on 800 acres in California’s Imperial Valley. “Volume is on par, and quality looks great,” she told The Produce News. “As kimchi and other fermented foods grow in popularity, so does the demand for Napa cabbage. We supply many organic fermented food producers with bok choy, green cabbage, carrots and Napa cabbage. Carrots complement Asian cooking very nicely as well.”
The Santa Cruz, CA-based company helps consumers incorporate Asian produce into menu planning and preparation. “On our social media platforms, we encourage people to learn about all the vegetables we grow and give easy ideas to incorporate vegetables into everyday menus,” Roberts noted. “The Asian items are popular in stir frys and soups. In January, we will share our rendition of a delicious California cole slaw recipe.”
Paul Boris, co-owner and vice president of Agritrade Farms LLC in Deerfield Beach, FL, said the company specializes in okra branded under the “Gumbo-Licious” label. Okra accounts for approximately roughly 50 percent of Agritrade’s total sales, and 40 percent of okra is marketed in Europe. “Okra is extremely healthy and is experiencing tremendous growth among Americans and Europeans as they become more concerned about eating healthy,” Boris commented.
Agritrade imports Asian vegetables from the Dominican Republic and Honduras. The line includes items such as banana flower, Chinese bitter melon, Chinese eggplant, curry leaves, green long beans, Thai eggplant and tindora.
“There are approximately 18 million Asians and Asian Americans living in the U.S. representing about 5 percent of the population,” Boris stated. “Major cities with Asian demographics include New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu. There are approximately 5 million Asians and Asian Canadians living in Canada representing approximately 15 percent of the population. Major cities with significant Asian populations include Toronto and Vancouver.”
Boris said Asian vegetables are becoming more popular with American consumers. “Many Americans are first introduced to the flavors of Asian vegetables in restaurants,” he observed. “Look at the American growth of guacamole, salsa and others via the American growing Hispanic demographics. Asian vegetables are experiencing similar growth on a smaller scale with new American customers enjoying the great taste of Asian cooking.”