Clever presentation makes the difference

It is said that you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but good presentation will take you halfway there! Customers don’t taste the carrots before buying them and rely on what they see to make the decision. Producers recognise their products’ good quality and think this is enough. Not so! It has to be seen to be good quality and this is done through careful packing and packaging.

A mechanical carrot lifter in action.

It is said that you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but good presentation will take you halfway there! Customers don’t taste the carrots before buying them and rely on what they see to make the decision. Producers recognise their products’ good quality and think this is enough. Not so! It has to be seen to be good quality and this is done through careful packing and packaging.

Carrots of a darker orange colour are more favoured and the trick is to place them in plastic packaging with thin orange stripes. The stripes are not ­glaringly ­visible, but make the roots look darker and more attractive. This may seem like a con, but if you aren’t doing it and ­others are, you will be at a ­disadvantage. Good labelling will reap rewards if you have good quality. Teach customers to associate your label with good ­quality and they will look for your brand.

I had a customer who labelled his prime quality “Bunny loves” and he sold more and commanded a better price. He still had his regular pack, but by selecting the prime quality from his pick every day, he generated much more income.
Labour laws have forced many producers to invest in mechanical harvesters to cut down on labour costs. The harvesters remove the carrots from the ground and take the tops off. Then they are dumped into large bins hauled by another tractor and taken to a shed where they are mechanically washed, and perhaps hydro-cooled, before grading and placing into plastic pockets. These farmers also keep tractor-drawn blades for lifting, should wet weather prevent harvesters from getting into the land. Smaller producers will use blades which undercut the carrots allowing for easy lifting by the handful by pulling at the tops.

For a special grade, select the desired quality before the rest is topped, loaded and washed. Washing can be mechanised by running through a relatively cheap washer made from strips of round bar which is rotated at an angle with water jets inside.

Similar-sized carrots neatly packed in ­layers in plastic pockets that preserve quality, will invite buyers to take notice. Various safe products that will remove bacteria and fungi from the root surface can be added at final wash. This will add shelf life.
For best quality, the carrots should have just reached full maturity. At this stage, roots which were removed the previous day remain turgid. Immature carrots wilt quicker. Healthy tops play an important role as they determine the sweetness of the root. Root quality deteriorates rapidly when leaves are diseased, resulting in poor eating and storage quality. Failure to address disease will build up disease organisms on the farm.

To build a brand on the market, consistently give attention to detail. Buyers will learn to trust certain brands which don’t have comebacks and are prepared to pay extra for this privilege. – Bill Kerr
• Contact Bill Kerr on (016) 366 0616. |fw