Booming economy fuels foodservice demand

01/14/2014 03:39:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

With Texas economy on sound footing after rebounding from the recession, wholesalers and distributors say they have seen strong demand and even growth from foodservice.

Brent Erenwert, vice president of Houston-based Brothers Produce, said his firm enjoyed record revenues last year, partly because of strong demand from restaurants and institutions.

The wholesaler-distributor’s Austin, Texas, facility serves much of the area’s high-tech campuses that provide on-site employee meals.

The firms, which include Facebook and Apple, have sophisticated tastes and seek high-end items, he said.

“They’re buying organic,” Erenwert said. Although some nontech companies may serve iceberg mix, red apples and russet potatoes, he said the tech firms will order the likes of organic romaine and spring mixes, and jonagold, mcintosh and Honeycrisp apples.

“They don’t care about the prices — they’re just trying to create more of a desirable work environment for their employees,” Erenwert said.

Brothers Produce also plans to continue expansion into school foodservice in the Austin area this year.

“That was a part of the business that we’d never gotten into in the past,” he said.

John Hayes, president of Houston-based Integrity Distribution Services, said since about 2010 his company has seen growth from wholesalers who serve the food service sector.

As the economy has rebounded, so has the restaurant industry, he said.

Until recently, Dimmit County — about 120 miles southeast of San Antonio — had two RV parks. But the recent discovery of oil within the Eagle Ford shale deposit changed all of that.

The county now boasts more than 60 RV parks as well as dozens of “man camps” that house the tremendous influx of workers.

In addition to the Eagle Ford deposit, which runs from southeast of San Antonio to Laredo, Texas, the Permian Basin near Midland-Odessa has seen a resurgence in oil development and the newfound Cline shale deposit east of Midland has added to the boom.

That, in turn, has boosted foodservice demand, said James Baker, director of procurement for Dallas-based Lipman Texas.

“It’s a whole new level,” he said. “All of these man camps have no infrastructure, and you have to serve them food.”

Not knowing quite how to classify it, Baker called it casual dining. Regardless of the name, he said the energy boom definitely has benefited Lipman Texas, since it supplies other companies, such as Sysco, U.S. Foods and Ben E. Keith, that serve foodservice providers.



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