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Grocers and foodservice operators demand high-quality organic garlic

Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., located in South Hackensack, NJ, is the largest distributor of garlic and specialty produce in the Northeast. The company’s organic line consists of garlic and shallots.

Bruce Klein, director of marketing, told The Produce News that the company’s accounts, especially the more upscale retailers, are remaining strongly committed to organics.

“Our organic garlic is available in 8-ounce packages, packed 12 to a box, and in 30-pound bulk,” said Mr. Klein. “In the past year we added a peeled product that comes in a 6-ounce vacuum-packed bag with six individual sections that are also vacuum packed. The item was introduced at the New York Produce Show in November last year, and we started shipping it to customers in February.

“We also added a 4-ounce mesh bag of organic whole clove in response to requests from some accounts that felt that the 8-ounce pack was too large,” he added.

The new vacuum-packed product gives consumers the convenience of having recipe-size portions, and it has a longer shelf life under proper refrigeration. Mr. Klein said the item has been well received, and he expects the demand to increase as consumers learn about it.

The company’s organic garlic is produced in several growing regions, which include Argentina, Mexico and California, depending on the season.

Despite the economic problems of the past few years and the higher price of packaged organic produce, Mr. Klein said the category is doing well, especially with higher-level retailers.

“We hand pick and hand pack our products, so they look really good on grocers’ shelves,” said Mr. Klein. “Consumers like pretty produce, and these items provide an outstanding presentation.”

Garlic is nearing the staple-level prevalence of pantry items like salt. Even in the summer months when people use their stoves and ovens less and their barbeque grills more, garlic is spicing up marinades, rubs and side dishes.

“People tend to use more garlic in the fall and winter as they switch back to heartier meals, but it’s pretty much a solid, year-round item,” said Mr. Klein. “We also have a large foodservice clientele, so the demand for our garlic is always strong.”

Maurice A. Auerbach’s organic shallots are sold whole and are packaged in 6-ounce clamshells, 12 to a box.

The company continues to be the exclusive northeast distributor for Mori-Nu Tofu products. The organic tofu is aseptically packaged and does not need refrigeration until it’s opened.

“Most retailers display the item with other tofu, but it’s a perfect item to be featured in other areas of the store to demonstrate the many uses the product provides,” said Mr. Klein.

The sheer nature of garlic makes it an exception to the locally grown demand. Because it is seasonal in every area where it is produced, and most of those areas are scattered around the globe, it is impossible to fill the continual demand for garlic, including organic garlic, with only local product.

“The most-local garlic you’d get here in the Northeast is from Canada,” said Mr. Klein, “which is also true of shallots. As far as our conventional line, we do source local product, such as asparagus, when it’s available. But it’s a very short local season on such products.”

Although the company is not particularly heavy into organics, it is always looking at and considering new items that would fit into its line and coordinate well with the other products that the company offers, he added.

“In general, consumers are looking for certain organic items,” he said. “If organic prices stay close to that of conventional, and the product looks as good as conventional on grocers’ shelves, the organic line will continue to grow.”

Maurice A. Auerbach’s line of specialty products is sold under the “Auerpak” brand label.