Christopher Ranch has been working with an heirloom variety of garlic for the past 50 years and is now bringing it to market under the “Monviso” brand name, according to Jeff Stokes, vice president of sales.
“We’ve been working hard to get this variety to year-round capability, and we finally accomplished that,” said Mr. Stokes. “In doing so, we felt it needed — and deserved — its own signature. In our testing the ‘Monviso’ with chefs, we wanted to know what they were looking for in a garlic profile, and they told us. In turn, we started digging into the properties of ‘Monviso.’ Chefs told us that it has a bold, nutty flavor that lasts throughout the entire experience of the dish.”
Mr. Stokes likened the profile of different garlic varieties to apple varieties, explaining that each one has its own profile. Some garlic varieties are hot and others are mild. Some are full of water while others are full of oil. The “Monviso” has higher oil content, and its bold, nutty flavor lasts longer than other garlic.
“When we did some comparison analyses with Chinese garlic, for example, chefs said they just didn’t hold the flavor, but dissipated quickly as they dish got to the table,” he added. “The flavor bleeds out of them fast.”
“Monviso” garlic was launched in August, and Christopher Ranch is now promoting it to retail stores and foodservice operators, with the foodservice segment being its initial push. The garlic is available in 30-pound boxes, four- and five-pound packs to a carton and a six-ounce vacuum-packed option for retail. The vacuum pack offers a longer shelf life when kept under proper refrigeration.
China has recovered from its garlic shortages of the past couple of years, and Mr. Stokes said that there is a “flood” of Chinese garlic coming into the country currently.
“This has caused the market to fall quickly, but California garlic prices are holding steady because it is the garlic of choice among people,” he added.
Christopher Ranch began its new crop of shallots in early September. Mr. Stokes said that it is a pretty exciting time for the item because the market went very high due to global shallot shortages. Prices are now leveling off as the United States, Canada, France and Holland are starting with new crops. He noted that some of the strange things that were being reported about shallots in recent times.
“A few years ago, some Peruvian and Columbian companies were importing small onions, labeling them as shallots,” he said. “When they were caught they were ordered by a U.S. agency to stop. But when the market went way up with the global shortage recently, they resurfaced. We’ve heard reports that some retailers were very upset when they realized they had onions labeled as shallots on their shelves.”
Yet another issue regarding shallots is that this is the first year that they are being imported from China. When asked if that could mean a potential dumping threat, Mr. Stokes responded, “With China, there’s always a dumping threat. Nonetheless, we are receiving information that there are containers of cheap shallots on the water from China currently.”
Dumping and other import issues, he explained, are more of a problem for U.S. producers today than at any time in history.
“We build new facilities that increase our levels of food safety and our sustainability, and we put a tremendous amount of money into these initiatives,” he said. “We’re spending a fortune on our facilities, but importers don’t have to follow the same guidelines. From a trend standpoint, retail customers and ingredient manufacturers are issuing more intense regulations continually. We’re all for this level of safety and sustainability, but if everything we do has to be checked and audited, then every container of fresh produce that enters the U.S. should be faced with the same scrutiny.”
Christopher Ranch is a family-owned-and-operated company that has been growing garlic for over 50 years in Gilroy, CA. It offers an extensive line of whole bulb, peeled, roasted, chopped, minced and crushed garlic, as well as pesto and pickled garlic. Its line also includes elephant garlic, ginger, shallots, specialty onions, sun dried tomatoes and cherries. The company also produces an organic line of garlic, specialty onions and processed items.