Shuman Farms partners in RealSweet sustainability and goodwill initiatives
- by Richard Turcsik | March 17, 2020
There are some RealSweet marketing, environmental and societal initiatives on tap at Shuman Farms this Vidalia onion season.
Reidsville, GA-based Shuman Farms is in partnership with Sikes Farms, Mclain Farms and Dry Branch Farms to market Vidalia onions under the RealSweet brand, one of the most recognized and trusted brands in the industry. New in-store merchandising efforts will further build that cache this year.
“Consumers wait eight months for Vidalia onions to hit store shelves and when they do, they bring a lot of excitement to the produce department,” said John Shuman, president and chief executive officer of Shuman Farms. “Based on consumer research, we know that merchandising Vidalia onions throughout the produce department is important to maximize sales. Shuman Farms offers full-color, high-graphic secondary display bins that can be easily placed not only in the produce department, but also in the meat department offering customers the perfect add-on item to what they are already putting in their basket.
“To maximize sales opportunities and help consumers with their meal planning needs, retailers can use secondary display units and other promotional materials throughout the store to drive that incremental item in the basket,” Shuman said. Those can secondary displays can be next to other complimentary items throughout produce and other aisles in the store, including bagged salads, peppers, mushrooms, potatoes and barbecue sauces. “The versatility and mild flavor of a Vidalia onion allow it to be the perfect ingredient for any dish,” Shuman said.
Retailers would be wise to focus on the importance of seasonality, spring and summer holidays and consumer trends during the Vidalia onion season, Shuman noted. “For example, we are seeing the topic of ‘meal planning’ driving search inquiries, therefore we recommend retailers create meal solutions that include Vidalia onions and other items from the store, like peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes,” he said.
Since its founding more than 30 years ago Shuman Farms has promoted a culture of giving back, including the founding of Produce for Kids to give back to the communities where its products are sold.
“This year, we will be offering RealSweet Vidalia onions in special bags supporting Feeding America in June,” Shuman said. “In the U.S., one in six children face hunger every day. We know that summer break, without school breakfasts and lunches, is a particular vulnerable time for those in need. Through the support of our Feeding America bags, Shuman Produce will provide 50,000 meals to families and will continue to work with Produce for Kids to spread awareness about childhood hunger.”
On the environmental and sustainability fronts, last September Shuman Farms announced major changes to its organic onion bags. With the use of different netting and thinner film, plastic in the RealSweet organic consumer bags is being reduced by 38 percent, with the structural integrity of the packaging being maintained.
“The goal of this new initiative is to reduce plastic usage, educate consumers on the recyclability of onion packaging and address shopper concerns about food waste in America. Like the rest of the RealSweet brand line of consumers bags, the redesigned organic packaging reduces shrink by design, allowing good airflow around the onions to keep them fresh,” Shuman said.
“The revamp of our organic packaging is just the beginning of an overall initiative to increase sustainability across all of our RealSweet brand products,” Shuman said. “Innovative marketing is part of our core values. We believe that innovations should lead to more sustainability offerings at retail following trends of consumer and retailer demand.”
On Feb. 22, RealSweet farmer Alan Sikes of Sikes Farms was named the 2019 Vidalia Grower of the Year at the Vidalia Onion Committee annual banquet. All four of the RealSweet growers were nominated for the 2019 award. Sikes also won in 2011, McLain Farms won in 2018 and 2014, and Dry Branch Farms won in 2013.