Why Can’t Vidalia Onions Be Grown in Iowa? Developing a Branded Agricultural Product

Roxanne Clemens
September 2002  [02-MBP 3]

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Suggested citation:

Clemens, R. 2002. "Why Can’t Vidalia Onions Be Grown in Iowa? Developing a Branded Agricultural Product." MATRIC briefing paper 02-MBP 3. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Declining grain prices, cyclical livestock prices, changing consumer preferences, and intense international competition for agricultural commodity markets have created a need for alternative production and marketing strategies. Iowa producers striving to break away from commodity production and to develop more lucrative value-added and niche markets must figure out how to increase both the consumer appeal and economic value of their products. Even if mild, sweet spring onions were a major cash crop in Iowa, producers could not market them as Vidalia onions. A legislated geographical limitation on supply is part of the success of Vidalia onions as an internationally recognized, branded product that can command a price premium in supermarkets across the United States. Vidalia onions are an example of how responding to consumer demand with a succession of marketing, legislative, and research events has protected a niche market from becoming oversupplied by producers. And, by protecting the name, quality, and image of an agricultural product through state ownership of the trademark, higher values are realized throughout the marketing chain.

Keywords: federal marketing order, niche market, retail price premium, trademark, Vidalia onions.