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Oregon Grown: Consumer trends

With 4.2 million residents in 2018, up from 3.8 million in 2010, Oregon is experiencing a population surge, and this includes an increasingly diverse mix of residents in some areas.

For instance, the city of Ontario in Malheur County is among the 10 most diverse cities in the state, with Latinos representing nearly 42 percent of the population.

As more immigrants settle in Oregon and local consumers grow increasingly interested in different cuisines, the produce industry is reaping the benefits.

“We have a nice, ethnically diverse clientele,” said Sam J. Caruso, president of Caruso Produce, Inc. in Portland.

“Also, people are traveling more, so we’re seeing higher demand for Hispanic, Asian, and Indian produce items,” Caruso said. “It makes selling produce fun when you can move pallets of large Fuji apples and Fuyu persimmons alongside of pallets of jalapenos and tomatillos.”

While ethnic items are gaining steam, conventional items continue to see high demand. Caruso says he moves heaps of Honeycrisp and Fuji apples each fall, along with surging demand for artichokes and Gold kiwifruit.

Grapes are also skyrocketing in popularity with Oregon shoppers, thanks to plenty of new varieties.

“Grapes are cooler than ever,” Caruso said. “We carried Anthony Vineyards’ new line of Candy grapes. They tasted so good, we were able to turn over very expensive pallets of fruit due solely to the flavor; price was secondary.”

Another variety that seems to be all the rage is the Celebration grape. “It has size, crunch, flavor and a more favorable price point,” he said. “You can run a $1.99 grape ad and sell a ton of these.”

Paul Kern, sales manager with Botsford & Goodfellow, Inc. in Portland, said the company experienced a rush on watermelon, cantaloupe, and corn last summer.

“There’s definitely been a ‘demand exceeds’ scenario with our big three summer items,” he said, adding that the weather played a role in this scenario.

“An exceptionally hot and rainless summer kept these key staples in high demand,” Kern explained. He also noticed a resurgence of the regular “seeded” watermelon in Oregon.

“There is nothing better for sugar, flavor, and texture,” he said.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.