Looking forward to the 2015 PMA Fresh Summit held in Atlanta, GA, next week, Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee Promotion Chairman Grant Kitamura said that organization’s presence has long been of great benefit.
IEOOC will be at Booth 1239 Oct. 23-25, with many of the committee’s shipper members greeting convention attendees.
“IEO has always had a very visible presence at the PMA Fresh Summit, and our intent is to continue to do so,” Kitamura, who is president of Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said. “The PMA has done a wonderful job of bringing many viable customers and shippers/suppliers together.”
He said the expo, which draws upwards of 20,000 attendees and 10,000 exhibitors from 60 countries annually, is “… the best and most economical method of seeing many existing customers as well as meeting potential new ones.”
Commenting on the IEO crop, which came in early for many of the shippers, Kitamura said, “The demand and acceptance of IEO this late summer has been tremendous. The transition from the California and New Mexico growing areas was perfect, those southern onion regions finished a bit early and IEO was about 10 days earlier than normal.”
As the onions are shipped from the Treasure Valley growing region of Idaho and Eastern Oregon, the IEOOC works with its members to constantly improve marketing and promotion efforts.
“The Onion Committee has reduced its assessment rate to allow IEO shippers to utilize their resources in more aggressive individual direct promotion and marketing,” Kitamura said. He noted that food safety is a major concern in the produce industry, and many retailers have their own criteria that shippers must follow.
“Most major retailers are concerned with food safety,” he observed. “IEO is a the leader in food safety with a majority of its growers and shippers participating in Certified Onions, Inc., a non-profit organization that uses third party testing for chemical residuals and a large majority of our growers and shippers participate in third party audits for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) on the farms and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) at the packing facilities.”
Kitamura also commented on the “Farm-to-Fork” movement, which provides consumers with added insight into where their food originates and also gives added impetus to a direct-sales relationship between shippers and retailers.
“Retailers [also] appreciate knowing where and how fruits and vegetables are grown,” he said. “I believe this is an excellent opportunity for producers to share their ‘American Family Farm’ legacies and to assure the end users that the U.S. growers can provide excellent quality and food safe produce.”
In addition, point-of-sale materials provide information on how and where produce items are grown, and Kitamura said both retailers and shippers should provide POS when possible.
“Any time we can educate our end users about the best methods of onion preparation and best use for our different varieties, we should do so,” Kitamura said. “Education will help our customers enjoy and appreciate our onions and hopefully increase consumption. POS materials are also a great avenue to encourage consumers to ‘Buy American!’”