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Garlic, shallots continue to lead organic category at Auerbach

by Christina DiMartino | January 09, 2011
The organic category continues to grow in demand for Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Jeff Schwartz, vice president of the South Hackensack, NJ-based company, told The Produce News. "Increases are consistent, rather than dramatic," said Mr. Schwartz. “We have had to increase our sourcing in order to meet the growing demand.”

Maurice A. Auerbach is the exclusive Northeast distributor for “Mori-Nu” brand organic tofu products, which are produced by Morinaga Nutritional Foods Inc. in Torrance, CA. Mr. Schwartz said that the line of tofu products is a growing item for the company, which he attributed to the shelf-stable product.

“ 'Mori-Nu' products are also a step ahead in food safety,” he said. “The aseptic packaging the company developed ensures that the product remains free from the harmful effects of light, oxygen and microorganisms without preservatives or irradiation. The shelf-stable package does not require refrigeration until the product is opened. Consumers like this convenience factor.”

Garlic continues to be the top performer in Maurice A. Auerbach’s organic line. The company sources from South America, Mexico and California.

“Many of our customers are now asking for kosher organic garlic that is certified by the Orthodox Union,” said Mr. Schwartz. “Certain insects render a food item non-kosher, so the garlic must be inspected in this regard.”

He added that at one time in the produce industry, fruits and vegetables presented no conflict with kosher laws. That is no longer the case. The company’s organic garlic is another good food source for customers who need a kosher offering.

Organic consumers, Mr. Schwartz noted, are typically committed to the category despite the economy or other factors.

“Consumers will pay whatever they must for organic products,” he said. “They typically figure that they don’t consume enough that the price should be a reason to buy conventional. These people perceive organics as being a healthier choice, and they are committed to the category regardless of the premium.”

Typical American consumers, Mr. Schwartz said, don’t use a great deal of common sense when making food choices. They will buy a cheaper, non- organic product to save five cents.

“I engage common-sense rules at my table,” he said. “I try to eat seasonal foods that look and taste better. But, consumer demand drives the food industry, and we have to supply what they want.”

Mr. Schwartz said that attending the Fruit Logistica show in Berlin every year helps him to seek out and stay connected to the company’s sources, including organic producers.

“I have great success in sourcing items and expanding our sourcing network at the show,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I get to connect with about 90 percent of our existing shippers and producers. Of all shows, including the major ones in the United States, this show sets the standard for the produce industry. I also learn an immense amount about packaging and effective displays that helps us to market our organic, as well as conventional, lines.”

Maurice A. Auerbach is a major Northeast distributor of numerous specialty produce items, including shallots, tropical fruits and vegetables, Asian products and organic items.