Pumpkin growers toast nontraditional demand
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.