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Shuman Peruvian onion production jumps up in 2011

Shuman Produce Inc., headquartered in Vidalia, GA, is projecting its Peruvian onion program will increase 35 percent in 2011.

Retailers are already stocking the company’s “RealSweet” onions, which will continue to be available through mid-February. “Our ‘RealSweet’ Peruvian sweet onions are an important part of our year-round sweet onion program,” John Shuman, the company’s president and director of sales, told The Produce News on Aug. 10. “Consistency is important, and our Peruvian onions allow us to offer the highest-quality product on the market for our retail partners.”

Shuman Produce maintains a year-round office and staff in Peru that manages production, field operations, food-safety practices, order fulfillment and logistics. “It’s not enough to offer a great-tasting product. It must also be a safe product,” he added. “Our program maintains a four-star rating from Primus labs, and Shuman Produce is a member of the Primus platinum program.”

The company is fully Product Traceability Initiative compliant with its Peruvian program. “We actually go beyond the requirements set forth by PTI, and our product is traceable from the field all the way to the item level in our consumer bags,” said Mr. Shuman.

“The weather conditions in our growing areas in Peru have been favorable this season,” he stated. “From what we’ve seen from our first week’s harvest for 2011, we’re expecting a good season from our 2011 ‘RealSweet’ Peruvian sweet onion crop.”

The harvest began in early July and will continue into late December. “The overall size profile of the early crop is slightly larger in size,” Mr. Shuman noted. “The mid-season crop looks to be of a more average size.”

Yields are expected to be comparable to the 2010 season. “As a leading grower-importer, we base our expectations on average yields,” he continued. “From what we have planted this season, our goal is to import between 550 and 600 containers during 2011. This should yield about 700,000 40-pound equivalents of packed product.” Product is primarily received at the Port of Savannah, GA, with additional volumes received at the ports of Philadelphia and Houston.

Consumer interest in sweet onions remains strong. “Stocking only true, Vidalia-type granex sweet onion varieties will not only maintain a consistent product at retail, but will keep consumers coming back for the consistent premium quality and flavor they’ve come to expect from Peruvian sweet onions,” he said.

The company markets product in a host of high-graphic and value-added packaging to promote retail sales. “Our bags are available in multiple sizes and come complete with great recipe suggestions, nutritional information and storage and handling tips,” Mr. Shuman commented. “We encourage retailers to stock a variety of our bagged and bulk produce to satisfy the varying needs of their customers. We recommend that ‘RealSweet’ sweet onions are placed in a central location in the produce department, and secondary displays are used during the weeks leading up to the fall and winter holidays.” Consumers are still grilling, and tailgate promotions are also encouraged.

“New to our consumer packaging this year is a QR code that allows consumers to interact with the ‘RealSweet’ brand through specially-created on-line content. We’re proud to be the first sweet onion grower-shipper to utilize the technology to better connect consumers to our product,” he said. Shuman is also taking advantage of social networking outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The company continues as a corporate partner with Susan G. Komen for a Cure and will make a donation to the fight against breast cancer. “Our consumer packaging will feature information about the program and bear the familiar pink colors and ribbon of the campaign,” Mr. Shuman stated.

“We’re also proud to take part in the fall Produce for Kids campaign in retail stores across the country,” said Mr. Shuman of the program he founded. Benefitting PBS Kids, the program is dedicated to raising funds for children’s charities and educating parents and children on the importance of a healthy diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables. To date, the program has raised over $3.5 million.