It’s been a winter of hot FOB prices for the organic artichoke market, but that’s about to change as the next four to six weeks offer solid volume and promotional pricing.
At least that is the view of Mark Munger, senior director of marketing for Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville, CA, the nation’s leading supplier of both organic and conventional artichokes. Speaking to OPN Connect on February 13, he said volume was about to pop over the next few days on the company’s winter artichoke acreage, which is grown in the desert region of California in the Coachella Valley. “It is a fantastic time to promote both organic and conventional artichokes,” he said. “The price on organic artichokes is typically pretty steady, but to move this winter volume, we are going to be aggressive marketers.”
Mark Munger, Senior Director of Marketing, Ocean Mist
The veteran produce industry marketing executive, who joined Ocean Mist last fall, said organic artichokes do respond well to retail promotions. He added that attractive retail pricing, large displays, and multiple pack options increase velocity. “Impulse buys go up,” Munger reported. “Offering organic artichokes in bulk as well as 2- and 4-count packs is a big part of our marketing strategy.”
“It is a fantastic time to promote both organic and conventional artichokes. The price on organic artichokes is typically pretty steady, but to move this winter volume, we are going to be aggressive marketers.” - Mark Munger
He revealed that this year’s winter crop is peaking on larger sizes, with the organic chokes averaging between an 18- and 24-count size, which Munger added is a large artichoke. He reminded that while 2- and 4-count packs are increasingly popular, bulk artichoke sales remain the largest category for both organic and conventional retail displays.
The desert production of the artichoke revolves around annual plants, which Ocean Mist has been researching and perfecting for the past 25 years. “We have more heirloom perennial plants in the traditional growing area of Castroville,” Munger said.
He noted that throughout the year Ocean Mist has a steady supply of organic artichokes, representing 5-8 percent of its volume at any given time. “The organic category continues to grow in popularity, and we continue to add organic acreage,” he said.
Melissa’s Produce, headquartered in Southern California, is also a year-round supplier of organic artichokes but its supply at this time of year is tight as it does not source from a desert production region. Director of Public Relations Robert Schueller revealed that the company has “all the same growing areas year round: Salinas and Castroville.”
Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations, Melissa's Produce
He reported that the market has been very strong throughout the winter but it is dropping, which apparently is reflecting the increased winter production. Over the past couple of months, he said the FOB price on a case of organic artichokes was as high as $48. “Right now [Feb. 14], a case costs $34,” he said. “Typical pricing during peak of the season is $26.”
Schueller said the organic artichokes being offered by Melissa’s presently are “frost kissed” and relatively expensive due to cold weather and recent rains in California’s coastal growing regions. “However, by late March we will have good volume and ad pricing available,” he said. “For the most part, organic artichokes are year-round with August–October being the best time to promote for quality and pricing.”
Dick Peixoto, Owner, Lakeside Organic Gardens
Also briefly weighing in on the current organic artichoke situation was Dick Peixoto, owner of Lakeside Organic Gardens, LLC in Watsonville, CA. He also foresees tight supplies until spring when Coastal California starts to get back into its peak shipping period. “Our artichoke supplies will be limited volumes from our desert production through March,” said the longtime organic grower-shipper. “Volumes will be ramping up in April when we shift back to our Central Coast production.”