Over the past couple of weeks we heard from our contributors that demand for onions had dipped, and several sources said this week that while pricing remains steady to good, there just hasn’t been the normal bump shippers expect ahead of Easter.
That got us to wondering about which holidays spark the biggest overall demand for food, and we found an undated story posted at https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/biggest-holidays-of-the-year that addressed the topic.
Writer Allie Olivieri put together “The Biggest Holidays of the Year, Ranked by Deliciousness,” listing her eight favorite holidays. Some if not most of her choices correlate to usual demand hikes for onions – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Cinco de Mayo and Easter among them.
Starting at the bottom, Olivieri put St. Patrick’s Day in eighth place, with Valentine’s Day seventh, Cinco de Mayo sixth, Independence Day fifth, Halloween fourth, Easter third, Thanksgiving second and Christmas first. So far the 2018-19 storage onion shipping season has missed a couple of beats in that line-up, although with new crop now in the pipe, there’s the chance for a turnaround. It won’t necessarily affect Easter, however.
From his sales desk at Owyhee Produce in Parma, ID, Chris Woo said he didn’t have a definitive answer for this year’s lack of an Easter pull, but he offered one possible explanation. And his take flips the spoonuniversity.com one-two ranking, putting Thanksgiving ahead of Christmas.
“We had a good Thanksgiving pull,” Chris said. “Christmas was so-so. Easter hasn’t had a pull, and it usually does.” Noting the traditional lift from foodservice is absent this year, Chris said that during regional rebuilding of sheds after “Snowmageddon” of early 2017, some shippers added reefer storage, making for a longer season.
“Maybe we don’t see the pull because of an extended shipping season and more contract business for some shippers,” he said. “One thing we’re seeing for the holiday is people won’t be working, taking Friday off and coming back Monday.”
About the Idaho-Eastern Oregon deal, Chris commented that “a few more sheds are getting out” of the 2018-19 shipping season now, and those remaining are looking ahead for a possible pull for Cinco de Mayo that could come around the third week of April.
Brenden Kent with Sunset Produce in Prosser, WA, also weighed in with another take. “We always see more sales at Easter, and that’s a given, but this year what you would call a ‘pull’ may not have been as strong due to some degree by timing.” He explained that “when Easter falls in late March or early April, kids are on spring break and there is just more going on surrounding the holiday.” Brenden added, “Still, Easter sales are very good for us.”
Shippers on the East Coast concur with the West’s take on less demand than normal for the holiday.
We asked Michelle Gurda with A. Gurda Produce in Pine, Island, NY about her thoughts on this year’s Easter orders, and she said though her perspective isn’t necessarily historical, she does think demand lifts at holiday times.
“This will be my fourth year working in the business,” Michelle said. “So while I can’t go back a ton of years, I will say that even in those four years I have seen better Easter demand than this season. But overall, it’s really no different than other holidays. There are increased orders for all of the major holidays, but it’s been better in past years, for sure.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, brought up another possible factor, that of weather. “There really hasn’t been much of a spring,” he said of some regions in the country. “Usually people get out for Easter dinner,” he said, noting that foodservice buyers didn’t buy as many onions this year.
Don Ed added, “So they very well may buy to replace for Easter, and we may have a pull on the back end. It could be they filled the pipe in late March.”