Specialty and fresh-cut produce remain popular items for wholesalers serving customers in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

A longtime fresh-cut produce processor, Keany Produce Co. in Landover, Md., is considering enlarging its value-added operation by constructing additional capacity on a 40,000-square-foot lot behind its warehouse where trucks now park, said president Kevin Keany.

“Fresh-cut demand is doing well,” Keany said. “The whole category is always expanding.”

Keany said the increased school fruit and vegetable serving requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping drive institutional demand.

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area’s many eateries also help fuel fresh-cut demand, he said.

Keany has been in the value-added business for more than 25 years.

Fresh-cut product remains an easy sell for Lancaster Foods Inc. in Jessup, Md., which has processed and sold fresh-cut product since relocating to a larger warehouse six years ago.

Vice president of sales and marketing Jerry Chadwick said fresh-cut demand is increasing.

Lancaster carries a full line of fresh-cut product.

G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc. and Capital Seaboard provides its customers fresh-cut items on a request basis through its small processing area.

“I truly believe fresh-cut is a huge plus for the fresh produce industry,” said Sal Cefalu, owner and director of Jessup-based CGC Holdings, Cefalu & Bro. and Capital Seaboard’s parent company.

“It’s huge business, helps with convenience and makes it better for the smaller restaurants that can’t afford the extra people.”


Specialties thriving

On specialties, Cefalu said the distributor handles a variety of items.

Because chefs are always wanting unique items to use as menu enticements, he said foodservice customers remain the biggest purchasers of the product.

Lancaster’s Chadwick said the increasing presence of ethnic groups is helping distributors experience growing business in specialties.

“We have growing business in Hispanic and Asian product,” Chadwick said.

“Many retailers are trying to get into more micro-marketing to appeal to different demographics. Those retailers want to make sure they’re providing the right products that appeal to those customers. It depends on where a retailer may be and if it has a high number of stores with a high density of Hispanic or Asian customers.”

Keany also enjoys strong specialty sales.

“It’s always good,” Keany said.

“We have many conventions here. Those large convention locations bring in large numbers of people that fill the hotels. Depending on the convention group, the specialty area can be very good. Quite often we get requests for large amounts of different specialty products for these larger groups.”

Microgreens remain a big specialty draw as well as fresh herbs, pear tomatoes and baby vegetables, he said.