Pump­kin grow­ers toast non­tra­di­tional de­mand

The Gulf Today - - 12 -

CHICAGO: US farm­ers are cheer­ing a bumper crop of pump­kins this year, due to dry weather, and cel­e­brat­ing a year-round boost in de­mand aided by new av­enues of growth in such prod­uct­sasla­vored­cof­fee­and­pet­food.

Ex­perts said this year’s pump­kin crop will match or top 2016’s boun­ti­ful har­vest thanks to favourable grow­ing con­di­tions in six states noted for pro­duc­ing half of the pump­kins in the na­tion. Farm­ers last year pro­duced 1.6 bil­lion pounds (726 mil­lion kg) val­ued at $208 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the US De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

Sales of the fruit for dec­o­ra­tions like jack-o’-lanterns or pump­kin pie illing and yo­gurt re­main strong, but it is the new and dif­fer­ent uses such as liq­uid cof­fee, ce­real and dog food where de­mand is surg­ing.

Sales of pump­kin-la­vored items for the year end­ing July 1 have surged 45 per cent since 2013 - the ear­li­est year data is avail­able - to a record $414 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­search irm Nielsen. That to­tal is up 6 per cent from a year ago.

“Any way you can con­sume it, it’s a good thing,” said Jim Ack­er­man, agri­cul­ture man­ager for Libby’s, which sup­plies close to 80 per cent of US canned pump­kin.

Libby’s is a unit of Nes­tle SA, which is also the par­ent com­pany of Nes­tle Pu­rina Pet­care, the world’s No. 2 pet food man­u­fac­turer.

“Pets love pump­kin too,” said Pu­rina nu­tri­tion­ist Janet Dempsey, while cit­ing its an­tiox­i­dant-like beneits and di­etary iber con­tent. Pu­rina uses real pump­kin to ac­cent its cat and dog food recipes year round.

Sales of dog food with pump­kin la­vors sky­rock­eted to $41.9 mil­lion for the 52week pe­riod end­ing July 29, com­pared with $925,288 dur­ing a sim­i­lar pe­riod in 2013.

Not all non­tra­di­tional sec­tors are hot for pump­kin, how­ever.

The liquor mar­ket for pump­kins, in­clud­ing pump­kin-la­vored craft beers, has cooled in re­cent years as ickle mil­len­ni­als switch to other la­vors. Pump­kin-themed craft beer sales fell to $83.6 mil­lion in 2016 from $115 mil­lion in 2014, ac­cord­ing to Nielsen.

The bumper US pump­kin crop this year was aided in some re­gions by dry weather,which­hurt­cor­nand­soy­bean­crops but aided the large or­ange-yel­low fruit.

In Illi­nois, which usu­ally ac­counts for 90 per cent of the United States’ canned or pro­cessed pump­kins, farm­ers last year picked 676 mil­lion pounds (307 mil­lion kg) of pump­kins, the US De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture said. That was the sec­ond­high­est to­tal ever and was worth a record $52 mil­lion.

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