In late March, the Spanish region of Navarre started its white asparagus campaign. This product is highly appreciated in the market and its differentiated quality was recognized in 2003, almost two decades ago, when it received the PGI Espárrago de Navarra seal. In addition to the traditional canned asparagus marketed all year round, fresh PGI asparagus is also being brought to consumers now by Grupo AN in a convenient format.
“Up until approximately mid-June, we will be able to supply trays of peeled white asparagus from Navarra, sizes 16-22 and 22+, in 500 gram formats,” says Carlos San Adrián. “The product is harvested at night in the fields of our partners and, after reception at our facilities, it undergoes a hydrocooling process to avoid any post-harvest coloration due to contact with light. After sorting and grading by size and color, only the highest quality asparagus is selected for fresh marketing.”
Carlos San Adrián.
“Last year, we started adding QR codes to both the fresh asparagus bundles and the trays of peeled asparagus. These lead to explanatory YouTube videos in which consumers get the chance to learn how to peel asparagus, as well as how to cook them by providing a number of recipes. In this way, we bring the fresh product closer to consumers of a wider age range, since there really are young people who don’t dare buying it because they are not familiar with the product and how to prepare it,” says Carlos.
“This year, moreover, we expect to recover the sales figures of 2019, the year before the pandemic, and even exceed them by 5 to 10% despite having started the campaign a week later due to the low temperatures and the rains. Our estimate is that 15% of Grupo AN’s total production will go to the fresh market, while the rest will go to the canning industry.”
Freshly harvested asparagus
The fresh asparagus sector was one of the worst hit by the pandemic. In 2020, the beginning of the season coincided with the spread of the coronavirus in Spain and the introduction of lockdowns and, as Carlos recalls, retailers and supermarkets prioritized the sale of staple products at a time when the threat of shortages was looming.
“However, at Grupo AN we were able to support all our partners thanks to our cannery, where they were able to deliver all their produce. In 2021, we recovered part of our fresh sales, but this year we will exceed them by around 20% compared to last year.”
The large production area delimited by this supra-autonomic PGI located in the middle valley of the Ebro River “allows us to maintain the quality of our fresh asparagus throughout the season, which this year will last between 12 and 14 weeks, as our production moves from the lower riverbank to the northern part of Navarre,” said Carlos San Adrián. “The geographical indication of origin has some defined quality parameters, but the Spanish market in particular is very demanding in terms of quality.”
“In fact, the domestic market is the destination for most of our fresh asparagus production, where the designation of origin and its local character are highly appreciated. Seventy percent is marketed through Spanish distribution chains, 20% goes to the food service channel and the remaining 10% goes to the country’s central markets.”
“We also export some of our PGI fresh asparagus from Navarra, mainly to France, Switzerland and Germany, before the start of their local productions, which always tend to be prioritized over imports, but this represents only a small share of our marketed volume. This year, due to the delay in our campaign, exports could account for between 5 and 8% of the total.”