“The American consuming public’s taste for onions has naturally grown as they learn about its outstanding nutrient value, health benefits, and varieties in tastes and cooking methods,” said Wayne Mininger, executive vice president for the National Onion Association, a nonprofit that represents almost 500 onion growers, shippers and associated companies throughout the country. “Our growers take a lot of pride in providing the best products to put before today’s consumer.”
According to the USDA’s numbers for 2017, the latest figures available, the annual per capital consumption of onions rose to 21.9 pounds per person in 2017, a 15 percent increase from 2016 and a 12 percent increase from 2009. Only fresh cauliflower consumption was higher, with a 38 percent increase from 2016-17.
Consumption data coincides with a 2017 report from Datassential, which showed that the onion was the top vegetable in 2016 at dining establishments, penetrating 93 percent of all establishments across the country and appearing in 12 percent of all dishes — a 26 percent overall increase since 2005. According to that report, onion use in restaurants, from fast-casual to fine dining, has increased 3 percent from 2005-16. Most notably, their use in appetizers has grown 21 percent in that time, and their use in side dishes has grown 14 percent. The increase of pickled and caramelized onions was the greatest on menus studied.
Consumers are gaining a stronger appreciation not only for onions’ versatility in how they’re served, but the health benefits as well. Onions provide important nutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals. High in vitamin C, onions are a good source of dietary fiber and folic acid. They also contain calcium, iron, and have a high protein quality (ratio of mg amino acid/gram protein). Onions are low in sodium and contain no fat. (More) “We can’t find one specialized diet out there that prohibits the use of onions in their plan,” Mininger said.
Onions also are a resilient vegetable in that they’re better able to stave off some food-borne illnesses that have popped up in the produce industry in recent years. A look in 2013 at three separate foodborne illness databases revealed that of reported outbreaks related to onions, there were no reports of outbreaks associated with on-farm contamination. And the review of the outbreaks “provided no evidence linking the contamination to the (onion) farm or storage or packing facility,” according to Intertox Decision Sciences, a Seattle-based analytics firm that studied outbreaks from 1998-2011.
Onions not only provide great health benefits, but they have natural defenses, such as an impenetrable papery skin that keeps them protected throughout the growing process.
“We at the NOA like to call it Nature’s Ninja,” Mininger said. “The onion will fight for you, and stay safe for consumers, with its natural defenses provided by Mother Nature herself. Consumers can rest assured that America’s onion farmers will continue their outstanding legacy of sustainable growing practices to produce the best products available.”
Founded in 1913, the National Onion Association (NOA) is the official organization representing growers, shippers, brokers, and commercial representatives of the U.S. onion industry. The NOA is comprised of over 500 members from the United States and abroad.