June 18, 2019

Celery juice trend has crop prices at ‘all-time high’

Vegetable growers are gearing up to supply consumers’ growing interest in celery as a diet food.

Sammy Duda is the senior vice president of national operations for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, the parent company of Dandy Celery, which is grown in Arizona, Florida, California and Michigan. He said celery prices are at an “all-time high” due to low supply and high demand.

“Supply is significantly short due to the amount of volume and yield we lost from weather on both coasts/growing locations,” Duda said in a statement. “In the West, warmer temperatures late last year caused the crop to mature early, which was followed by colder than normal temperatures, rain and wind, which slowed and damaged the celery crop. We are still seeing the adverse effects of this weather on the crop and expect it (to) continue into early summer.

“In the East, the driest fall on record combined with warmer than normal temperatures adversely affected the size and weight of the celery crop and we have never recovered from the effects of this weather. The celery market as a whole is afflicted with considerable crop/yield loss.”

Demand is higher in 2019 in part due to consumer interest in diets that call for blending fresh celery into a healthful juice drink. A new book, “Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time Healing Millions Worldwide” by self-described “medical medium” Anthony William, was set for release May 21.

Celery juicing trend

Duda Farm Fresh Foods has started sharing celery juice recipes on its social media accounts.

“The celery juicing trend has definitely impacted sales and this is due to a number of celebrity and influencer endorsements that are highlighting the health benefits of celery,” Duda said. “This has attracted a new consumer that has not ever bought celery before, and are buying at a higher price. Snacking convenience, on-the-go shoppers and the celery juicers are looking for easier ways to snack and increase vegetable consumption.”

Duda isn’t the only one to notice the increased demand.

“The advent of home fresh celery juicing has created a paradigm shift in demand,” said Gary Wruble, general manager of the Michigan Celery Promotion Cooperative. “The challenges the supply side has faced this winter have been outpaced by this newly created niché demand. The Michigan growers may enjoy better returns on the celery acres in 2019.”

Although Duda also grows in Arizona and Florida, California and Michigan are the foremost celery production areas, the only two states where the USDA tracks celery production. In 2018, California growers harvested 28,300 acres for a value of about $424.5 million; Michigan harvested 1,900 acres for a value of about $19.5 million.

Celery harvests in different regions of California — the south coast counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo and the central coast counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz — cover the entire calendar year, according to the University of California.

MORE on celery growing

Michigan production usually runs July 1-Oct. 20, Wruble said. The majority of the Michigan celery acres are grown near the west Michigan towns of Hudsonville, Hamilton, Byron Center, Decatur and Fremont.

“The Michigan growers may be able prices in the early Michigan campaign,” he said. “The market should support higher prices in early July prior to production availability from Ontario/Quebec.”

How long the prices continue is anyone’s guess.

“Like any trend, there is no way to tell if it will be a long-lasting one,” Duda said. “That said, as demand for plant-based and convenience items continues to elevate, we do anticipate that celery will continue to be a key player. Change does not happen overnight — supply will improve once we respond and adjust to this new normal of celery consumption.

“Working with Mother Nature, this will take roughly six months for supply to meet the new demands of the category.”

— Stephen Kloosterman, contributing editor

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