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Spice World has strong California focus but also handles imported garlic

Spice World, which is headquartered in Orlando, FL, and has garlic growing, packing and shipping operations in Coalinga, CA, markets whole fresh garlic, peeled garlic and a wide assortment of processed garlic products in addition to (as its name suggests) a line of spices and spice blends.

The company handles not only California garlic but also garlic imported from various producing countries outside of the United States.

However, Spice World has a strong California focus in its garlic program, as is clearly evident in the following statement on the company web site.

“There’s nothing quite like fresh California produce. The climate is ideal, especially for growing garlic. And when you have fertile soil like we do on our farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley, you’re going to get a product that’s bursting with flavor.

“From soil to seed to harvest and packaging, every step and every aspect is equally important when it comes to producing a product this good. Our California farm has been in our family [the Caneza family] for generations. Its rich soil combined with our high standards of organic and responsible farming help us produce quality unlike any other.”

The web site further states: “Founded in 1949, Spice World continues to prove that integrity and innovation harvest incredible quality. From the fertile soil of our farm in the San Joaquin Valley in California to our coast-to-coast distribution and leading-edge processing plants, Spice World consistently delivers the freshest, most flavorful supply of garlic nationwide. Today, we are the largest supplier of garlic to America’s supermarkets and provide outstanding service to our customers in all 50 states.”

“Being a California grower, we are obviously strong for California [garlic],” said Louis Hymel, director of purchasing, in an interview July 19 with The Produce News. But for competitive reasons, “we also have Chinese garlic. And then we import, at other times of the year, from South America and Mexico,” more specifically from Argentina, Chile, Central Mexico and Baja California, Mexico, he said.

“We store California garlic for quite some time, as well, for people that want California,” he added.

“We are in full swing with the harvesting” and packing in California, Mr. Hymel said. “We should have some good numbers. It looks like it is going to be a good production year for us in California.” Total volume should be similar to last year or “possibly even increased a little bit.”

Late rains affected some of the early garlic, but “just a small amount,” he said. Overall, “the garlic this year looks great.”

On the early crop, all of the garlic had been dug and windrowed and was “starting to come into the shed” to be packed. The late variety of garlic will follow shortly, and “so far everything is looking good on the late as well,” he said.

The company has increased its acreage on late garlic this year, so “we will have more late than we normally have,” he said.

Spice World offers fresh California garlic both whole and peeled, in organic as well as conventional forms.

On the process side, the company offers “ready-to-use garlic” in retail-size 32-ounce and 48-ounce jars. In addition, “we have squeeze garlic, which is really [creating] a whole new interest in garlic by changing the way people use garlic.” It is now used not just as an ingredient but also as a condiment, he said. “People are using garlic in more ways than they have very used it before because of the squeeze garlic.”

In addition, “we have dry garlic, granulated garlic and garlic powders. We pack garlic in bottles for retail and foodservice under the spice category, and we also do seasoning blends, using garlic as an ingredient for some of our process seasonings,” he said.

China had an “excellent” garlic crop this year, “probably one of their better crops,” said Mr. Hymel, who had recently returned from a trip to China. “It exceeded 2007 levels. It may not be as high as 2008 levels” but is up from the past two years. While in China, “I saw a lot of garlic production,” he said. “The quality this year is good.”

With the larger Chinese crop this year, “it is going to be interesting to see where the market ends up,” he said. “Basically, this year … consumers are going to have some of the best choices that … they have had in quite some time. If they want good California, we have it. If they want good Chinese [garlic], we have that, too.”