Woolworths has begun selling tearless onions on their supermarket shelves.
The Australian brand has announced the release of tearless onions between July and September this year in select stores across NSW, Victoria and the ACT. The trial run will determine the popularity of this new product with shoppers, informing future decisions about marketing and production.
Why do onions make us cry?
When you chop into an onion, its cells break down and release compounds into the air. Contained within these compounds is sulphur, which causes a chemical reaction as it vaporises, leading to a burning sensation in the eyes. When your brain identifies this burning feeling, it triggers a tear response to stop the irritation. It’s an experience we know all too well, and the biggest setback when cooking with onions.
So, how are tearless onions different?
Well, they were created by crossbreeding different strains of onions that contain less enzymes and volatile compounds known to irritate eyes and cause tears. This includes syn propanethial-S-Oxide, a particularly strong chemical containing sulphur.
Similarly, while these volatile compounds only increase in regular onions once harvested, tearless onions actually contain fewer compounds the longer they remain on the shelf, leading to less chance of causing tears. They are reported to have a slightly sweeter taste than classic brown onions, but retain the important properties that make onions a staple in the Aussie kitchen.
What can Aussie consumers expect?
Tearless onions have been a dream for scientists since the 1980s. While they have been produced in other regions around the world, this is the first times consumers will have the chance to purchase these crops in Australia.
Woolworthis is attempting to establish the demand for this new product – called ‘Happy Chop – Tearless Onions’ – over the next few months, in order to determine whether it is worth investing further time and money to bring these onions to all of their shops across the country.
The project is a collaboration between Woolies and BASF Australia. BASF is the world’s leading chemical company, developing chemicals, plastics and crop protection products in a range of key industries. In 2017, they released the first tearless onion seed variety into the US Market, and later followed with Spain in 2020 and the UK, France, Italy and Germany in 2022. It took more than 30 years to develop a commercially viable product, and across the globe it remains in high demand.
According to consumer and customer manager at BASF, Sam Clayfield, “The product has been immensely popular with consumers wherever it’s launched.”
“We expect Australian consumers will love the Happy Chop – Tearless Onions just the same, whether it’s for a barbecue with mates, in a fresh salad or as a staple in their favourite recipe.”
Due to counter-seasonal availability, tearless onions produced in Australia are also being shipped around the world, leading to economic benefits for Aussie growers. Shoppers will have to wait and see whether Woolworths continues with this project, but for the time being you can enjoy chopping onions without shedding a tear in the process.
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