Members of the National Association of Produce Market Managers saw a glimpse into the future of North American food distribution during their tour of the new Philadelphia produce terminal market.
The association recently had its wholesale and regional food hub conference in Philadelphia.
The Nov. 2-3 meetings included a daylong tour of the facilities being built on the city’s south side and visited with Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market officials and distributors.
Merchants in the City of Brotherly Love are preparing to relocate to a new terminal in January.
Ben Vitale, market managers association president and executive director of the Central New York Regional Market Authority, Syracuse, said he was impressed with the refrigeration system used in the more than 700,000-square-foot Philadelphia facility.
“A lot of our markets like mine are over 70 years old,” he said. “Things are changing very rapidly. People forget how the large markets like Philadelphia and Hunts Point and how they get that to work with so many tenants working in one common area. The logistics of that are interesting and helpful to our membership.
“How do you improve what we have had over the last 40-70 years compared to today when we can build a brand new facility?” Vitale said. “There will be more of these built across the country as our facilities are getting old and need to be updated.”
Michael Janis, general manager of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce market, said the tour and meetings with Philadelphia wholesalers allowed the market managers to discuss design, construction, operations, finances and governance issues.
“The $200-million investment into the Philadelphia facility is really a symbol of the vibrancy of wholesalers and distributors throughout the country,” he said. “It’s important to have these facilities and this infrastructure in place for these businesses, many of which are locally owned, as they are major job generators and support tourism in many of these major cities where food and tourism are significant industries. Our businesses play sort of this back office role to these important industries in these regional and metropolitan areas.”
Meetings with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials also allowed the market managers to show federal officials how important markets are in the national food system, Janis said.