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Shuman Farms gets a jump on this year’s Peruvian sweet onion crop

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With sweet onions in short supply this summer, and higher than normal consumer demand, Shuman Farms got a jump on this year’s Peruvian sweet onion crop and is a leader with imports to date. As of this article, Shuman Farms is trending 47% up with imports season to date compared to last year. However, according to USDA Market Report, shipments to retail for the industry are up 82% season-to-date. Their jump on the season, and the increase in industry movement to retail, is entirely due to a shorter than usual Vidalia season.

“This time last year we were shipping Vidalia onions and building Peruvian inventory. This year, the industry hasn’t had the opportunity to build any meaningful inventory of Peruvian onions,” said John Shuman, president and chief executive officer of Shuman Farms. “Despite these challenges, as one of the largest grower-importers in the category, we are well positioned to supply the needs of our customers throughout the fall and winter months. Peruvian onions bring stability to the sweet onion category as they provide a consistent look, feel and flavor profile for 7-months at retail. I believe this consistency allows our retail partners to grow the category.”

Anchored by their four organizational pillars - superior quality, excellent customer service, innovative marketing, and giving back - Shuman Farms’ RealSweet® brand is one of the most recognized and trusted brands in the industry.

“As a result of our commitment to these core values, we have become one of the leading grower-importers of Peruvian sweet onions and one of the largest grower-shippers of Vidalia onions,” said Shuman. “Our vertically integrated facilities and farmer partnerships allow us to supply a premium, reliable, and consistent product year-round.”

As early pioneers in the Peruvian sweet onion industry, Shuman Farms is heavily invested in the region with a full-time staff and infrastructure to support its program. Shuman recently updated its facility and packing house in Peru in time for the 2020/2021 season with new grading lines and sorting equipment that will improve their quality of product and allow for a more efficient final repack in Georgia.

“These improvements bring about efficiencies that help us better serve our retail partners,” Shuman said.

The first crop of the season will continue to be harvested until end of September. Across the industry, this crop is experiencing a smaller size profile and lower yields per hectare versus last year.

“As of today, the industry is seeing fewer colossals than last year and a higher percentage of medium to jumbo sizes,” Shuman reported. “The smaller size profile lends itself to more bag promotions and we are encouraging our retail partners to take advantage of this opportunity.” We will begin harvesting our second crop in late September-early October and are hoping yields and sizing get back to normal at that time.”

Importing their sweet onions through the Port of Savannah allows Shuman Farms to maintain a full-time local workforce in southeast Georgia providing American jobs 12-months of the year. Thanks to their Peruvian sweet onions program, they are able to retain the same employees from Vidalia season except for their H2A field labor. Peruvian onions allow them to maintain an experienced year-round workforce that they would otherwise be unable to do.

“In addition to the positive economic impact in our own backyard, importing our sweet onions through the Port of Savannah supports over 440,000 jobs in the Southeast United States,” said Shuman. “The economic contribution the Georgia Ports provide is especially important to our retail partners in the Southeast as they are able to put local economic sustainability into action.”

Based on Shuman’s exclusive consumer purchase behavior and consumption research, the sweet onion consumer is 55 years old or older living in a 2-person household, with an annual income between $50,000 - $75,000. The research also revealed that the average consumer eats 1.6 pounds of sweet onions per year and when sweet onions are in consumers’ market baskets, they are more likely to purchase fresh beef, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, mushrooms, and peppers. The company offers a wide variety of packaging options for retailers such as: large display bins, consumer bags, display ready containers, cartons, and secondary display bins designed to create meal solution opportunities in the produce department and drive incremental sales.

“We encourage retailers to build cross-merchandising displays in the produce department as well as the meat department to take advantage of these consumer buying habits and drive incremental sales,” said Shuman.

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Shuman Farms believes in giving back to the families and communities that support its products. In 2002, Shuman founded Produce for Kids®, an organization centered around educating families about the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, while raising money for charitable causes. Since the launch of Produce for Kids, the organization has raised more than $7 million to benefit children and families including providing more than 12 million meals to those affected by hunger, through its support of Feeding America®.

In the month of October, Shuman Farms will turn their RealSweet sweet onion bags and display bins pink and provide a donation to further the research in the fight against breast cancer. In November and December, Shuman Farms is partnering with Feeding America and their Produce for Kids’ organization to help those affected by hunger. With their special Feeding America sweet onion bags, they have pledged to provide 50,000 meals to those in need.

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