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Harvest Sensations specializes in Peruvian asparagus

Except for a few months during the winter, Harvest Sensations, with operations on both coasts, imports Peruvian asparagus into the United States, with a large portion of its supplies going to the foodservice sector.

“Other than during the dead of winter, we have Peruvian asparagus,” said Tony Pinto, director of sourcing for the firm. “We expect our shipments to be up 15-20 percent this year.”

He said the Miami division of the firm skews heavily toward foodservice while the Los Angeles headquarters office does a great deal of both foodservice and retail business.   “In fact we have a new sales manager working out of L.A. in Mike Rubidoux,” Pinto said. “We also have a new account manager in Royce Ridera.”

He called this year’s crop normal and anticipates promotable volume from mid-September to mid-December.

Speaking in late August, Pinto said asparagus was currently high priced with a significant discrepancy in the West Coast vs. East Coast market. He said production in Mexico was shifting causing a disruption in supplies and Peru was just beginning to get into another heavy period of supplies. Within several weeks of that discussion, Pinto expected the price to drop.

As the holiday season approaches in late fall/early winter, Pinto said Harvest Sensations will have to rely a bit more on boat shipments of asparagus than it has in the past.

“Air freight is getting so expensive because we are competing against a number of other crops like blueberries that are causing the cost per kilo to rise,” he said.

He added that winter shipments of fresh produce to the United States are increasing from many different South America counties, including Peru, Argentina and Chile, resulting in more demand for cargo space.

Boat shipments are the natural alternative. Though it obviously takes longer for the asparagus to arrive in the United States, that mode of transportation can be critical in assuring a continuity of supplies during the high demand periods around the holidays. That is the same time people are traveling and space can be overbooked causing cargo to be bumped from planes.

As far as trends are concerned, Pinto said there appears to be an increasing demand at retail for more value-added options. Consequently, Harvest Sensations offers a number of alternatives including different sized bags, value-added fresh tips and a stand-up pouch bag.

On the foodservice side of the ledger, he said the meal kit customers are driving up demand for asparagus. He called it a perfect items for the meal kits, though it requires the use of air shipped asparagus.