Boston wholesalers gear up for local product - The Packer

Boston wholesalers gear up for local product

05/21/2014 12:41:00 PM
Jim Offner

Coosemans Boston Inc.Courtesy Coosemans Boston Inc.Many Boston-area wholesalers say their companies supplement their offerings with local produce in mid- to late summer when supplies are sufficient.As Boston’s local produce deal approaches, area wholesalers and retailers are ready for increased sales.

Fruits and vegetables grown in New England have a huge retail following, and that fan base appears to be increasing each year, said Ed Ring, owner of Ring Bros. Wholesale, a South Dennis, Mass.-based distributor that also operates two retail stores in the Boston area.

“We get as much as we can,” Ring said.

He deals with some area growers directly, he said.

There are challenges to dabbling in the local deal, particularly among smaller-scale growers, Ring said.

“The problem is, they’re very inconsistent. They’ll have good product for a couple of weeks here, and people are always looking for it,” he said.

But, Ring said, his company works with local growers who can supply product meeting necessary standards.

“We’re open to any local guy because there’s a big demand for it, obviously,” he said.

Meeting the necessary food safety hurdles can cut into the number of suppliers with whom wholesalers can do business, said Camilo Penalosa, vice president of business development and partner with Infinite Herbs, a Miami-based company with a location in Everett, Mass.

“A lot of people want to grow, but so many people don’t want to go through everything that is required for food safety. You can’t use that,” Penalosa said.

Some of those smaller-scale growers will find a way to move product by other means, Penalosa said.

“Some people sell direct to restaurants, and the restaurants buy from them,” he said.

The local deal begins to peak in July and lasts into the waning days of the summer, most wholesalers said.

When local product is available, the wholesalers said they will line up for it.

“We definitely support the local farmers when it’s available, and we’ll sell them,” said Maurice Crafts, salesman with Coosemans Boston Inc. in Chelsea, Mass.

Chelsea-based wholesaler Peter Condakes Co. Inc. also has handled locally grown produce out of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine for years, said Peter John Condakes, president.

“You really notice it in August and September when people’s gardens are really going full bore,” he said.

There’s a down side to the booming seasonal deal, though, Condakes said.

“Business here drops off, and there’s even an oversupply of local. You can’t get away from it because you can only move so much,” he said.

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