U.S.: Bayer’s tearless “Sunions” to make debut at PMA Fresh Summit

After more than three decades of research, development and natural hybridization by Bayer Crop Science, an onion that won’t make you cry is hitting the U.S. market. 

Sweet tearless “Sunions” are a long-day variety grown in the U.S. that breeders claim decreases in pungency during storage while also getting sweeter.

The product will be on display at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in New Orleans next week from Oct. 19-21, in both the New Product Showcase and at two exhibitor booths – Bayer Vegetable Seeds (Booth #4151) and Onions 52 (Booth #5829).

Breeders and marketers claim the reason Sunions display more favorable post-harvest characteristics comes down to the levels of volatile compounds responsible for pungency and tearing; while these levels remain stable or increase during storage for other onions, in Sunions they do the exact opposite while also making the vegetable more consistent from bulb to bulb.

Most other sweet onions available during the Sunions window of availability are currently imported from South America.

“Looking for ways to avoid tears when cutting onions is a big deal for consumers,” said Don Goodwin, president of Golden Sun Marketing.

“A quick Google search will yield over 500,000 results, and YouTube videos on the topic have received more than 5 million views.”

Putting Sunions’ tearlessness to the test, the onions faced consumers armed with knives and cutting boards at both the Bayer Sensory Lab and a third party facility in the Ohio State University’s Sensory Evaluation Center. Each time, participants were pleasantly surprised by the lack of tears.

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“No tears,” responded one participant. “Usually I have to wear sunglasses to cut onions.” Another had trouble believing what their nose was telling them: “How could it not make me cry and still smell like a real onion?”

As for the eating experience, Sunions are consistently crunchy and sweet with a mild flavor. Sampling events conducted prior to launch saw consumers coming back for more. Comments during a demo conducted at a West Coast retailer included “Best onions I’ve ever had” and “Great, it doesn’t make me cry.”

A sensory panel with full authority and power t determine ship dates follows a tightly-controlled protocol that includes both flavor and tearlessness. Sunions will ship only once they are certified ready by this panel of tasting experts and with the support of a food lab test certifying the proper levels of volatile compounds.

“We’ve established a strict protocol with our sensory team not to allow the release of Sunions until they reach peak flavor and tearlessness,” said Lyndon Johnson, crop manager for onions at Bayer Vegetable Seeds. “We want to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace with a set of stringent quality requirements to maintain our brand promise.”

 

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