New Optical graders
This year, Bland Farms has invested in new graders and packinghouse upgrades.
“We are excited about the things we can do with our new packing line,” Troy Bland said.
With an investment of about $4 million over the last couple of years, the new machines are optical graders that are much more consistent than human graders, he said.
“Computers will make the same decision every time, versus a (human) grader, who can make (different) decisions,” Troy Bland said.
Delbert Bland said the packing facility is climate-controlled and fully enclosed.
“We’re taking a proactive approach on the environment in which we run our onions,” Troy Bland said. “It is something you can feel and see when you are out there in that shed.”
The facility is expected to be in operation by the end of April.
The company offers 128 variations in size and package options. While the ratio between bag and bulk used to be about 60% bulk and 40% bags, Delbert Bland said those numbers have switched.
Exactly what customers look for
Consumers can get more brand identification and information from a package rather than bulk onions, he said. Bag sizes include 2-, 3-, 5-,
6-, 8-and 10-pound options.
Larger sizes are merchandised in bulk displays and smaller sizes go to consumer packs, but more larger onions are going into bags in recent years, Troy Bland said.
“The consumer pack bag is really pushing the business for the company,” he said. “You can really give the consumer exactly what they are looking for.”
Bryce Edmonson, senior vice president of business development for Bland Farms, said the firm can cross-merchandise with a range of its own brand products, including snacks, sauces and condiments.
“We actively try to cross-promote items to help increase the sale of fresh onions through the retail channel,” he said.
Big difference in quality
Increasing sophistication in drying rooms and handling and grading of the onions is making a big difference in quality, Delbert Bland said.
“The way we handle and produce onions today versus 10 years ago is night and day,” he said.
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