Christopher Ranch recently planted its 2021 garlic crop for what is expected to be another year of unprecedented demand.
The Gilroy-based company also recently opened a new facility in Southern California, which not only serves the southern end of the state, but also the Southwest and Texas regions, according to Executive Vice President Ken Christopher.
“The facility has state-of-the-art cold storage capabilities, and as such, we’re able to better inventory our fresh and peeled garlic products that are first produced in Gilroy, and then shipped to cover customer needs in Southern California,” he said, adding that the new facility is providing 50 jobs.
The new facility comes at a time when the demand for garlic is reaching “previously unimaginable” levels, Christopher said.
With more people staying, and cooking, at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for garlic from grocery stores is surging, with increases approaching 30 to 60 percent every week, according to Christopher.
A garlic shortage in early 2020 was alleviated by a strong harvest season from Christopher Ranch, which netted 100 million pounds combined from both standard and organic garlic.
“For our organic garlic, we had our best harvest ever, giving us the ability to offer select customers 100 percent country of origin USA for the entire year,” Christopher said. “Demand for California garlic continues to be unprecedented, likely due to the Covid-19 situation.”
To meet demand, Christopher Ranch added additional night shifts to its Gilroy facility, and has upgraded equipment at its production facilities
“It’s strange to think of a ‘bright side’ to the pandemic, but we’re proud to be able to offer more employment to the community than ever before, with industry-leading levels of food and personnel safety,” Christopher said.
Christopher expects that with Covid-19 vaccinations rolling out, garlic consumption should gradually return to pre-pandemic levels by early 2022.
“Our business model has significantly changed, and we’re adapting as best we can to the Covid-19 situation,” he said. “National supply/demand for fresh produce has been completely overhauled, and as garlic is only harvested once a year, it’s incredibly challenging to adapt without frustrating our customers or shorting orders.”