Monsanto rolls out branded onions
By Georgina Gustin
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
CREVE COEUR — For anyone who loves sweet onions, their disappearance from grocery store shelves in the fall is a sad occasion.
But recently, a new sweet onion — one grown domestically in the off-season — has hit the St. Louis market. Distinguished by a little green label bearing the name EverMild, the onions offer new hope for shoppers with a year-round appetite for the mellower tastes of summer.
The EverMild onion, appearing locally in Schnucks stores, represents Monsanto Co.'s first U.S.-focused foray into the branded vegetable market. Researchers with the Creve Coeur-based company, better known for its weed killer and genetically modified row crops, have been working on the onion for a decade, and will launch the product formally on Monday.
"This is the first time we've worked to develop a brand," said Danielle Stuart, a spokesman for Monsanto's vegetable seed business.
"All of our vegetables are sold in the supermarket, but this is one of the first we've trademarked with a name."
Last year, Monsanto had nearly $7.3 billion in overall sales — about $808 million from vegetable seeds, most of which are conventionally bred. While the seeds represent roughly 11 percent of the biotech giant's sales and make Monsanto the leading vegetable seed seller, the company hopes to increase that figure, largely by focusing on consumer tastes and needs.
The company already has launched a branded broccoli, called Bella Verde, and a lettuce, called Dolce Verde, both in Europe, and is working on a variety of other vegetables and fruits from peppers and tomatoes to melons.
"We've definitely focused part of our vegetable business on what consumers are interested in — improved flavor, convenience, nutrition," Stuart said. "The onion had a flavor focus, and we identified a gap in the market where domestic sweet onions aren't available."
The onions will be sold exclusively at Schnucks stores, at least initially. Monsanto and Schnucks began working together during the last year as Monsanto started casting around for a retail market for EverMild.