Agrow Fresh adds lay-flat packaging

Agrow Fresh is going toward packaging that is easier and more efficient for retailers to display, said Ed Romanelli, vice president of sales and marketing for the Chicago-based potato and onion marketer.

“We are working on a lay-flat package for a 5-pounder with one of our customers,” he said.

The 5-pound lay-flat package doesn’t have the wasted plastic “flower” of a typical poly 5-pound bag, he said.

Romanelli said the private-label business is very strong for Agrow Fresh, with about 80% of volume devoted to that business. Among its private-label customers, he said the company packs private-label potatoes for Jewel in Chicago and Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh.

The company ships potatoes and onions to the East Coast and to Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Anthony Marano Co. expands within facility

Anton Marano, co-owner of the Anthony Marano Co., Chicago, said the firm now uses 420,000 square feet of its 500,000-square-foot facility. The firm moved to its building in 2000.

“When we first moved into our building, we were 240,000 square feet, and we didn’t know what we were going to do with that. Now we are at 420,000 square feet,” he said.

The company does retail and foodservice business and offers seven specialized commodity departments for buyers to come and look at product, with departments including Western vegetables, potatoes and onions, tomatoes, melons and fruit.


Coosemans Chicago adds seasonal product

Coosemans Chicago Inc., has evolved from a specialties-oriented wholesaler serving white-tablecloth restaurants and higher-end retailers to a bigger niche, said Mark Pappas, president of the company.

“We still do that, but over time those items become commodities,” he said.

Pappas said Coosemans has evolved to become a supplier of seasonal and regional produce, including shippers from Michigan and Florida.

The firm also has increased its specialty focus and handled dragonfruit out of Vietnam. Bigger volumes of dragonfruit have made the fruit more accessible to consumers, he said.


Dietz & Kolodenko works with retailers

Providing more service and forward pricing to independent retail customers is an emerging trend for Dietz & Kolodenko Co., said Nick Gaglione, president.

Independent retailers now are looking for similar kinds of advance pricing for ads that previously were only demanded by larger chain stores, he said.

“Years back (buyers) would come down to the market and they would just buy stuff, and now they want to make sure they have two pallets of grapes at this price,” he said.

Working with independent retailers to set up advance pricing means communicating those needs to shippers, he said.


Everyday Fresh enters mainstream

Steve Chmelovsky Jr. will join Everyday Fresh Produce Inc. on a full time basis after his graduation from college in May, said father Steve Chmelovsky, president and chief executive officer of the company.

The senior Chmelovsky said the wholesaler specializes in Indian, Hispanic and Asian produce but has started to add mainstream commodities, including lemons, blueberries and mangoes, to its mix.

“Asian and Indian consumers are not regular customers of apples, grapes and pears, but we are starting to open up our line a little bit,” he said.

The firm has added persimmons from Spain, boosted volume of maradol papayas and expanded year-round imports of mangoes, he said.


J.L. Gonzalez adds doors on market

J.L. Gonzalez is now perhaps the largest Mexican-oriented distributor in the Chicago area, said Jason Gonzalez, transportation manager.

Acquiring a portion of the market previously occupied by World Wide Produce has allowed the company to grow, he said.

The firm previously operated doors 11 through 19 on the market and now operates from doors 1 through 20, Gonzalez said. Before, the company had units 5, 6 and 7 on the market and as of mid-November they operated units 1 through 7, he said.

The firm, founded in 1993, distributes Mexican produce grown by the company’s sister company in Edinburg, Texas, Gonzalez said.

The firm specializes in premium Mexican produce, including avocados, cilantro and tomatillos.

Gonzalez said the firm plans to expand its sales effort but will continue to focus on Mexican produce.


Panama Banana goes beyond bananas

With the acquisition of additional units at the Chicago International Produce Market and veteran produce salesmen, Panama Banana has become about much more than the yellow fruit that remains its logo.

“We were primarily just tropical fruit before, but now we have a complete line of fruits and vegetables,” said Deke Pappas, co-owner of Panama Banana.

Along with gaining space formerly occupied by the Auster Co. Inc. in 2010, Panama Banana also hired fruit salesmen Tommy Durante and Nick Florek, formerly with Auster.

Pappas said those hires brought Panama Banana the capabilities of a full-line fruit house, and the September hire of veteran vegetable salesman Dean Kennelly provided the wholesaler with new vegetable accounts.