Utah Onions, Inc. of Syracuse, UT, and Gerrald’s Vidalia Sweets of Vidalia, GA, have finalized a strategic partnership that will bring Utah Onions to the table for the 2013 Vidalia onion season.
According to Utah Onions Director of Business Development Richard Pazderski, the partnership will allow the company to supply its retail and wholesale customers with “Vidalia Sweet” onions for the season starting this spring, shipping from mid-April well into July.
The deal created a blended team of experienced sales professionals and will utilize Gerrald’s Farms’ infrastructure, including a state-of-the-art packing facility, drying rooms, 180,000-bushel storage capacity, an advanced food-safety focus and a vast array of innovative consumer packaging capabilities. The company’s Vidalia product will continue to be marketed under the “Gerrald’s Vidalia Sweets” label.
“Gerrald’s Vidalia Sweets® is a well-established and respected brand,” Mr. Pazderski said. “This is another step towards a 52-week sweet onion program for Utah Onions Inc. Uniting with this established sweet onion grower and brand provides tremendous value to our sweet onion program and we are pleased to offer these products to our customers. The expert sales force that Utah Onions Inc. brings to the partnership will offer a unique retail focus and perspective.”
Mr. Pazderski himself is a relative newcomer to Utah Onions, but is a well-known veteran of the onion market in general and the Vidalia deal in particular. He joined Utah Onions last April after previously serving as director of sales for one of the nation’s largest providers of sweet onions.
This is not Utah Onions’ first experience in the Vidalia deal or with Gerrald’s. The company was founded in 1978 and more than 25 years ago Jerry Hartley, then an owner with Utah Onions, marketed Gerrald’s Farm’s Vidalias until he retired eight years ago.
At that time, new ownership within the Hartley family decided to devote the company’s efforts more to Western storage onions (red, white and yellow) while also developing a quality, certified Western domestic sweet, the Columbia River Sweet®.
“With the category growing every year, Utah Onions saw the need to further develop its sweet onion program and offer customers a true one-stop shop for sweet onions,” Mr. Pazderski said.
“The partnership with Gerrald’s is a very valuable and strategic move in that direction,” he added. “As a shipper and brand that have become synonymous with excellence in quality and service, it’s critical that our partners share the same type of commitment and reputation and Gerrald’s Farms certainly fits the program.”
The partnership will also market red onions from the Vidalia region. While those cannot be labeled Vidalia onions, the product is unique with regard to competing alternatives due to South Georgia growing conditions, variety and geographic location. These attributes offer a competitive advantage to East Coast receivers and provide room for growth within the category. Utah Onions is also developing a small white onion pilot program in the Vidalia area that will be further developed in 2014 if the project proves promising.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Mr. Pazderski said. “The program will offer opportunities for freight savings to East Coast receivers along with mixed truck load opportunities on reds, whites and Vidalia Sweet Onions.”