NEW YORK — Produce distributors on the Hunts Point Terminal Market and suburban-based retailers sell produce to a wide range of customers.
Many owners of the produce stores and bodegas visit the market daily to find the freshest fruit and best deals.
“Those are our core customers,” said Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and market co-chairman.
“And the street cart vendors are on the rise. There are more of them around than there were five years ago. Those people buy a tremendous amount of their product from this market. We love the way they merchandise their produce through these prominent displays on the sidewalks all over town.”
D’Arrigo said those pushcart vendors remain one of the few signs of nature in the concrete jungle called Manhattan.
Convenience store sales keep growing for RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J.
7-Eleven remains a booming business for RLB, said Joe Granata, RLB’s director of produce. The chain purchases many fruit cups including fresh-cut cantaloupe, pineapple, mangoes, watermelon and prepackaged salads. RLB also consolidates a lot of product for them, Granata said.
“You go into a Rite Aid or other drug store, no matter what it is, everyone is selling food,” Granata said.
“Target’s another one selling fresh fruit and vegetables. They’ve taken on more fresh produce this year and transformed many of their stores in the Northeast. Fresh produce in these kinds of stores is a big trend.”
The machinations of the economy prompted many retail buyers to adjust their practices, said Pete Pelosi, buyer and logistics for A&J Produce Corp.
“For the holidays, we moved a lot more lower-cost product like cabbage. Instead of items like asparagus that sold for up to $30 a box, the retailers looked more at core items — items they could still give the consumer a fair price on and still make a good margin. They bought less of the higher, more costly items. They had them on the shelves but didn’t feature them.”
With roots in retail sales, Baldor Specialty Foods Inc. is moving more into supermarket sales.
“The retail world has steered to master distributors like C&S and Bozzuto’s,” said Mike Muzyk, president.
“That fulfilled every need. What I see in the retail world is not them wanting to go back in time, but there is a need to go back to delivery to the store, through direct store delivery on some commodities that have short shelf life and do not lend themselves to the big distributors.”
Muzyk said he doesn’t want to harm such distributors, who he says do a good job in their service, but instead, wants to complement their deliveries.
“They’re a QE2 while I’m a Jet Ski who can turn on a dime and have the item on their shelves tomorrow,” he said.
“The bigger distributors don’t have that flexibility and aren’t that nimble.”
Mike Cochran, sales manager and vice president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., said distributors can tell the change in retail demand.
“Most of the retailers say they haven’t been very busy,” he said. “Their orders are smaller. When they feel it, we’re going to feel it.”
Lucky Lee, vice president of sales for Lucky’s Real Tomatoes, a tomato repacker and distributor, said the retail scene remains vibrant.
“This area has an exciting retail scene,” she said.
“New Yorkers are fussy shoppers. They’re not happy with just another piece of fruit. They want tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.”