Competition keeps Northwest vendors on their toes

07/06/2012 02:54:00 PM
Jim Offner

Produce purveyors in the Pacific Northwest say they’re fortunate to work in that particular region because consumers, as well as competitors, keep them focused.

“We’re extremely lucky in that we have a very educated customer base here, and a lot of them have gardening backgrounds and understand what food is and what it takes to grow it,” said Tom Lively, senior salesman for Eugene, Ore.-based Organically Grown Co.

The customers expect top-quality products, and suppliers have to deliver in order to survive, Lively said.

“They just want the best, and it’s a super kick to deliver it,” he said.

It also helps ensure that fresh product always is available, said Doug Huttenstine, executive vice president of sales for Seattle-based wholesale distributor Charlie’s Produce.

One way to keep product moving briskly is by aggressively promoting locally grown products, said Ernie Spada Jr., owner of Duck Delivery and United Salad Co., Portland, Ore.

“That seems to really be the undertone to this marketplace is driving as much local product as possible,” he said.

The fastest movers in the region for Mount Vernon, Wash.-based grower-shipper Valley Pride Sales, are the more-perishable items said Dale Hayton, sales manager.

Those items, he said, include raspberries, blackberries, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli and colored potatoes, he said.

“We push the local really hard to those buyers close by. That seems to be a vein that everyone wants,” he said.

The company also grows hardier varieties of potatoes that often are shipped outside the region, Hayton said.

“Potatoes are a little bit different, I guess, in that they’re more shippable and the types of product we produce here are highly sought after across the country, mostly because we have a very cool coastal climate and we have very high color on our potatoes,” he said.

The local deal is a key to success in the Pacific Northwest, said Pat Suyama, owner of City Produce, Seattle.

“There are a lot of snow peas, sugar peas, cabbages, spinach, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers coming online here,” he said.



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