Located in one of the world’s food capitals, New York distributors are able to capitalize on growing produce trends and supply restaurants and restaurants wanting the latest fresh produce items.
They remain optimistic increasing consumption trends will continue.
“I see fresh produce consumption going up because I think all produce is a value compared to what it costs,” said Joe Palumbo, chief executive officer of New York-based Top Banana LLC and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market. “If people saw what it takes to grow, harvest, ship and ripen here, and considered what they pay for it, they’d be amazed. It’s really a great value compared to other commodities.”
Palumbo said he can sense an increasing demand for fresh produce.
Others also feel the pull.
“I see consumption increasing all the time,” said Joel Panagakos, a salesman for J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y. “It seems everyone you talk to, they’re on the same bandwagon.
“Every fruit and vegetable seems to have a health component associated with it. It used to be difficult to eat one to two servings a day, but today eight to 10 servings isn’t out of the question.”
Panagakos said more people on gluten-free diets as well as other health reasons are helping spur increased interest in fresh produce.
The trend that sees more people returning to cooking at home is also helping fuel demand, said Joe Granata, director of produce for RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J.
“There are all these food shows, and they do all these items,” he said. “Customers come in and say they want to try them. So the retailers have to stay ahead and have these items for their customers or they could go elsewhere.”
Chefs are increasingly requesting specialty produce items, said Alfie Badalamenti, vice president of Coosemans New York Inc.
“They are always asking for new and exotic items,” he said. “We will always have them looking for those products. To remain competitive, they want new products.”
Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., said interest remains steady.
“I don’t know what spark is necessary to get people fired up about consuming more fresh produce, but it’s kind of a quandary to move a crop you don’t have to advertise or market it because people know it’s good for them,” he said. “To move more of the product, no one knows how to make that happen.
"Everyone knows fresh produce is good for you, but everyone completely takes fresh fruits and vegetables for granted."