Error

Close

search
OPN Connect Newsletter 291 · October 20, 2022

Organic Hard Squash at Peak Season Popularity


While certain types of organic hard squash are sold year-round, this organic vegetable is at peak popularity and variety right now.

“This is the time of the year for these winter or hard squashes,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles. “We started our current program on August 22 and will have them through December.”

OPS 2023 Retailer Registration

Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations, Melissa's Produce

The most popular varieties of squash are butternut, spaghetti, acorn, and kabocha, but at this time of year the varietal mix expands to include delicata, carnival, buttercup, and red kuri.

“This is the time of the year for these winter or hard squashes. We started our current program on August 22 and will have them through December.” - Robert Schueller

In fact, Melissa’s merchandises a 650-pound bin of organic mixed squashes that features all eight varieties. Butternut and spaghetti squash each account for 30 percent of the bin’s volume, while the acorn variety adds another 15 percent. The other five varieties each chip in with 5 percent.

Vitalis February 2023

“The bin is the way to go,” Schueller said. “It’s priced attractively, and many retailers merchandise it very aggressively. Here in California where the weather is warm, we see a lot of retailers merchandising the hard squashes outside in front of the store.”

Though there has been some upward price pressure because of inflation, Schueller said the 650-pound bin offers a value option with great merchandising appeal. The price break is especially significant in the organic bin option over the more traditional carton FOB price.

“The bin is the way to go. It’s priced attractively, and many retailers merchandise it very aggressively. Here in California where the weather is warm, we see a lot of retailers merchandising the hard squashes outside in front of the store.” - Robert Schueller

While the hard squashes are popular for their culinary attributes, the Melissa’s representative said they also have an ornamental attraction to some consumers, especially during the fall season. Many retailers, he said, like to merchandise hard squash alongside pumpkins in the runup to Halloween.

This year’s crop, Schuller said, is of excellent quality, noting that with hard squashes, especially butternut, add some great flavor to the Thanksgiving menu.

Another grower-shipper of organic hard squashes is Organic Valley, an organic farmer-owned cooperative headquartered in La Farge, Wisconsin, that is well-known for its dairy products but also has a solid organic produce program.

Organic Valley produce Sales Manager Derek Ulstad revealed that the number of organic growers the cooperative represents fluctuates a bit depending on the commodity and the time of year, but this year its winter squash program includes 40-45 growers, mostly producing in Southwest Wisconsin.

“We started our season in late August, and we will finish up with most of our varieties by the first two weeks of November, but our butternut and acorn will last through Thanksgiving and into the first week of December.”

Derek Ulstad, Produce Sales Manager, Organic Valley

Ulstad said that 13 organic hard squash varieties are sold under the Organic Valley label. “Our four top varieties are butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and pie pumpkins, but we also have several others, including buttercup, delicata, carnival, red kuri, and sweet dumpling—all 100 percent certified organic.”

“We started our season in late August, and we will finish up with most of our varieties by the first two weeks of November, but our butternut and acorn will last through Thanksgiving and into the first week of December.” - Derek Ulstad

Most of Organic Valley’s sales go east of the Mississippi, with the Midwest region accounting for the bulk of business. Organic Valley, however, has customers all over the country and an ever-increasing organic produce program.

At the start of the season, Ulstad said the squash market was higher than usual in the mid-$20s for the standard 35-pound carton. “As we are getting further into the season, our core squashes have come down a bit to about $18 to $20 per carton, which is closer to what we typically see at this point in the season," he said. "It's been a good season with pretty good prices.” Specialty squashes are a bit higher in the mid-to-low $20s FOB.

Organic squashes offer retailers promotional opportunities, which are a welcome sight for retailers as the wet veg lineup offered few value options this summer and fall. Ulstad noted that the organic wet vegetable crops returned very good prices this summer, though that program wound down quickly this month as the weather cooled off.

“As we are getting further into the season, our core squashes have come down a bit to about $18 to $20 per carton, which is closer to what we typically see at this point in the season. It’s been a good season with pretty good prices.” - Derek Ulstad

Returning to Organic Valley’s hard squash marketing opportunities, he reported that the company does offer a 665-pound organic bin that can be filled with any of the core varieties as well as a bin featuring the top four squashes (including pie pumpkins) and another mixed bin option with many of the specialty squashes.

Want Fresh News Delivered Regularly?

Sign up for OPN Connect 

Stay current on all the most important news
and features with our weekly newsletter.

Sign Up Todaykeyboard_arrow_right