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I typically try to buy organic onions. Recently the only organic onions that are available are already peeled (i.e., have the outer papery skin removed).

Why is this being done?

Presumably there is a cost to peeling the onions for the consumer so there must be a benefit either for the consumer (although none comes to mind) or during the processing of the onions.

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I have never, ever seen or heard of onions being sold whole but pre-pealed. It sounds... unlikely... to be a good practice. –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 8 '13 at 1:35
    
Is the outer layer still a bit dry and thin, so you still have to remove something? –  Jefromi Mar 8 '13 at 1:40
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My local grocery store does this too. Very strange. I avoid them. Onion skin is nature's wrapper. I don't want random people groping my onion flesh. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 8 '13 at 4:52
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@HenrikSöderlund In my grocery store you can tell that they were peeled. There is no dirt. They are "wet" to the touch. You can sometimes see where some of the paper is still attached. I've always found it very odd. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 8 '13 at 13:05
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Could be a method of cleaning up onions with mold on the surface. Here in US, last summers drought seems to have impacted the onion crop, and those available are neither the size nor quality they should be this time of year. –  Wayfaring Stranger Mar 8 '13 at 15:13

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Combination new technology and an excuse to charge more.

It seems to be a 'value added' feature driven by new technology in processing harvested onions and the 'convenience' of not having to peel the Onion.

According to fruit today this is a growing market. As others have noted sometimes Organic means an excuse to charge more. Peeled onion aids that front.

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Awesome! Thanks for the evidence-based answer. –  KennyPeanuts Mar 8 '13 at 16:47

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no. I think it's an excuse to increase the price of these "premium" groceries.

Similarly, pre-sliced mushrooms and pre-diced celery are available in my local grocery store at a premium price. Added processing adds extra cost of production and therefore price to the consumer.

In the case of onions, I think this is a marketing gimmick to make these veggies seem fancier. I cannot think of any benefit for storage.

It may also be an issue of product differentiation. Meaning, it makes the organic onions easily recognizable in a room full of other, similar onions.

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For some people, the convenience of not having to slice and dice is worth paying a little bit for. It may seem trivial to you, but it's not just a marketing gimmick. Peeling onions isn't really on the same scale; it doesn't take anyone very long. –  Jefromi Mar 8 '13 at 15:03
    
That's true @Jefromi. I do sometimes buy pre-sliced mushrooms if they are priced similarly to their whole counterparts for ease of prep. I'll edit the answer accordingly. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 8 '13 at 15:41

I don't think there's a good reason for it. It might make the onions look prettier to some people, and look convenient (pre-peeled!), but it's not like that saves you any significant amount of time, and it leaves them vulnerable to damage and drying out faster.

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Particularly true for red or white onions, which are a very attractive purple and snow white respectively when peeled. Put them next to some leafy greens and carrots, and you might really increase sales of all of those items. –  Caleb Mar 8 '13 at 14:50

Sometimes we see peeled onions at our local farmer markets. I have asked several vendors about this and most said it is a result of trying to make sure every particle of soil is washed from the onion. Many of them use vegetable scrub brushes and those automatically rub away the skins during the scrubbing process. One vendor said some people grow in more dense and clay-like soil and will need a vigorous scrubbing process. Some vendors are also concerned about passing along any soil-born contaminant so they not only scrub the skins off but also dip in a very weak bleach solution.

One vendor said he took the skins off because the Hmong vendors in our area did so and their onions looked so clean and shiny. This vendor said he did it to be competitive in that market.

I grow my own onions so I've never purchased any with the skins off.

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