"Baby," Maybe

Here's a question: Are "baby" carrots, the tasty, two-inch orange snacks in little bags, really baby carrots? The answer is a lesson in getting new growth from old products.

Grimmway Farms is the largest carrot producer in the United States. With 35,000 acres under cultivation, it packs 10 million pounds of carrots per day. Half of those are "baby" carrots. Sort of.

"We do not grow carrots that are an inch long," says Patty Boman, Grimmway's marketing director. They grow carrots that are 8 or 10 inches long—then machines cut, peel, and polish the veggies to give them that baby-fresh look. Grimmway uses the trimmings for juice, compost, and cattle feed.

Carrots grown to be baby-cut are a special breed, sweeter and more orange. On average they take 120 days to grow, and are picked sooner than regular carrots to preserve tenderness. (Real baby carrots are a tiny specialty crop. Grimmway grows none of those.)

Between 1970 and 1986, Americans' consumption of fresh carrots was static, averaging 6 pounds per person. Starting in 1987, consumption rocketed, nearly doubling in 10 years and reaching almost 11 pounds per person in 2002. All because of the baby carrot.

How's that for rethinking your business: Make the portions smaller, double your volume. And check the price. Per pound, baby-cut carrots sell for more than twice the price of their uncut cousins.

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