Saven Corp. in Savannah, GA, specializes in flat sweet yellow onions marketed under the “Oso Sweet” brand for the retail market. The company is in the sweet onion business year-round, with U.S. production on the East Coast for eastern markets, the West Coast for western markets, and offshore to extend the season to 52 weeks a year.
Whatever the source, “we want to make sure our customers know that when they buy an ‘Oso Sweet,’ each and every onion is going to be just what they expect,” said President Brian Kastick.
During the summer, “we concentrate, in the East Coast, on our Vidalia onion, and on the West Coast, we concentrate on our flat California onions,” Kastick said. “This is our fifth season with California onions.”
The company has a spring onion deal in California’s Imperial Valley and then moves production to the Bakersfield area in the Central Valley for the summer. There is a strong local focus in Saven’s distribution of the California crops and in its marketing strategy.
“We really embrace the local concept,” he said. “Ninety percent of the product we grow in Bakersfield stays within the state of California,” as the company has a heavy focus on selling the California-grown onions to California supermarkets.
Do “Oso Sweet” customers also play up the local angle? “Absolutely,” said Kastick. “We push that angle, and a lot of our customers do as well.”
The company’s major emphasis, however, is on quality, Kastick emphasized. “We are focused on creating a product that is perfect for the grocery store setting. We are not trying to be the biggest. We are not trying to hit every chain. We are trying to provide a flat sweet onion that is perfect for retail and perfect for consumers who want to buy a true sweet onion, and that is how we push it. That is how we advertise to our clients.”
Saven’s message to retail customers is that when they put “Oso Sweet” onions on the shelf, they differentiate themselves from other onions in the produce department, and when consumers see the “Oso Sweet” onions, “they go back to the store time after time and have a positive experience,” he said. Retailers “can actually have higher gross sales, because people know that they get what they pay for, and that allows [the retailers] to charge that premium for the sweet onions,” Kastick said.
Following the company’s Central California onion season, Saven will move production to Yerington, NV, for the fall.
On the East Coast, Saven does Vidalia onions, “then we do Peruvian onions and Chilean onions, then we fill in with Mexico and Texas as needed,” Kastick said. “The idea is basically to have two crops going at all times, so we can provide our customers with alternatives nationwide.”