Business brisk in Connecticut, produce vendors say

12/23/2013 11:14:00 AM
Jim Offner

Economic forces injected a bit of caution into the Connecticut produce business in 2013, according to some produce vendors.

“This is kind of a tricky year,” said Steve Porter, chief executive officer of M&M Farm Produce Inc., Hartford, Conn.

He described business in 2013 as being generally flat but acceptable.

Numerous issues, including the government shutdown in September, slowed things down somewhat, he said.

“There were a lot of negative things affecting business this year,” Porter said.

Elisabeth Granoff, co-owner of New Haven, Conn.-based G&A Wholesale Fruit and Produce, said economic influences also could work in the favor of produce suppliers.

“With the cost of labor, more and more restaurants and institutions are going to precut vegetables,” she said, noting that price and service helped her business.

Customers generally are looking for convenience, but other factors weighed in on the success of Hartford-based FreshPoint Connecticut LLC in 2013, said Ken Yandow, president.

“At this point in time, our customer base is still demanding, as always, quality, and they want to make sure the price is proper — the same year over year, in that respect,” he said.

Feresh-cut items were popular in 2013, said Al Parziale, president of Hartford-based Tinarose Produce LLC.

As for the year the company said, Parziale said it’s trying to pace itself.

At retail, consumers are looking for convenience, said Lindsay Hawley, a spokeswoman for Quincy, Mass.-based retail chain Stop & Shop New England.

“With fresh-cut fruit and vegetables,  customers are looking for healthy, easy-to-prepare meal solutions,” she said.

Organics and locally grown products also remain extremely important in the marketplace, Hawley said.

“Fruit categories seem to growing faster than vegetable categories, and berries, grapes, apples and pears seem to be very high on our customers’ shopping lists,” she said.

Options in the fresh-cut category are increasing, to the consumers’ benefit, Hawley said.

“Both fresh-cut fruit and vegetables are gaining momentum, and in-store fresh-cut daily seems to be the flavor of the day,” she said.

Stamford, Conn.-based CT Fresh Inc. finished its second year in business in 2013, said Paul Ryan, president.

The company is finding a strong niche in local produce, Ryan said.

“What we did here is we’re doing a lot of local produce, supporting local farms in Connecticut and bringing it to the southern part of Connecticut, where it’s kind of lost its identity because of all the business coming up from New York, New Jersey and the tri-state area bringing their product in from the south,” he said.

His company grew in 2013 by not trying to overextend itself, he said.

“We’re in Stamford, and that’s where our niche is, and it’s a big metropolitan area, with Stamford-Greenwich-Norwalk,” he said.



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