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Carrot supplies to remain steady as consumption registers an uptick

With steady supplies rarely affected by weather, carrots are something of a hardware item in the produce department.

Eric Proffitt, sales manager for Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, CA, said the forecast for this year’s spring deal from Imperial Valley will do nothing to alter that impression. “We just finished up the winter crop in Kern County and have moved to the Imperial Valley right on time,” he said  Wednesday, Feb. 27. “The crop looks good and we expect supplies to be steady throughout the spring.”

Imperial Valley will be the major point of origin for carrots through March, April and most of May. Around the middle of May, the Kern County spring crop will reach maturity and the harvest will shift back to the southern San Joaquin Valley.

Chris Smotherman, an account representative for Kern Ridge Growers LLC, Arvin, CA, agreed that steady supplies typically punctuate the California carrot deal. However, he said when the industry shifts to Imperial Valley, as Kern Ridge will do in mid-march, “we usually see supplies tighen up a bit.”

He explained that the carrot growers harvest the product in Imperial Valley, but the shippers still truck it up to their packing facilities in Kern County. “That gets expensive so we don’t grow anything extra, and usually that means the market gets a little nudge.” But he added that the nudge doesn’t come close to replicating the price swings that are common for other vegetable items. He also said that the cold desert weather — which has caused most vegetable items to be very high priced for much of this recent winter deal — has had virtually no effect on carrots. “Carrots are a hardy crop and there have been no problems due to weather,” he said.

He added that with the marketing and selling of carrots being in so few hands, an even-keel marketing scenario is always in vogue.

While the supply situation doesn’t have much of a story to tell, increased consumption is worth shouting about. Bob Borda, vice president of marketing for Grimmway, said after several years of declining carrot sales, sales are trending upward. He said grocery store scan data has revealed a 7.1 percent increase in sales over the last four weeks, 3.4 percent increase over the last 13 weeks and 2.4 percent over the past year.

"That’s very good news," he said. "Over the last three or four years, sales have declined about 1-2 percent per year. Seeing this trend reverse itself in the last year is great.”

Mr. Borda said carrots have received positive publicity in the past year concerning their nutritional content, which has no doubt helped increase consumption. He said growth has also been fueled by additional sales in the organic category and new innovations in value added. “We’ve seen 15-20 percent growth in organic sales over the last year,” he said.

With regard to value-added items, Grimmway has introduced several products, including microwavable petite carrots with a butter pack as well as its new Simply Delicious packaged side dishes that feature carrots with a sauce. “All the growth is in the fresh cut category,” he said.