“Steady” is probably the best word to describe the produce scene in Northern California.
Sales seem to be edging upward following a lengthy recession, but for most companies they haven’t yet reached pre-recession levels.
At grower level, hot weather in California early in the season played havoc with supplies at the same time weather woes in the East and Midwest spurred buyers who usually source locally during the summer to look to California to fill their orders.
Those conditions made for “a wild summer” for Bay Area Produce, Los Gatos, Calif., said Bob Loyst, executive vice president.
Loyst doesn’t expect conditions to return to normal until late September, when production kicks off in west Mexico.
“Overall, business has been steady,” said Eric Patrick, director of marketing for Grant J. Hunt Co., Oakland, Calif.
However, he said trends often are dictated by the ups and downs of particular crops.
A smaller-than-usual cherry crop this season, for example, meant cherry movement was down. On the other hand, good strawberry volume meant strong sales on the berry side.
Foodservice business has remained vibrant in the San Francisco area despite reports to the contrary in other parts of the country, said Ric Tombari, owner of Cooks Co., San Francisco, which does a lot of restaurant business.
“We never had a recession at Cooks,” he said.
“Restaurants in San Francisco are one of the most active and growing parts of the San Francisco economy,” he added.
Many Northern California companies are seeing increased demand for specialty fruits and vegetables.
“(That) is definitely a growth area in the Bay Area,” said Cory Puentes, director of Northern California for Orange, Calif.-based Interfresh Inc., which also has California locations in San Bruno and Walnut Creek.
He said he has seen an increasing number of speciality grocery stores open recently.
At Franzella Produce Inc. on the Golden Gate Produce Terminal in South San Francisco, Calif., owner and president Philip Franzella said he has noticed a kind of transition in the speciality category.
Government crackdowns have slowed illegal immigration, he said, which has slowed business in Mexican items a bit, as has the fact that Hispanic immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time are becoming more acclimated to the American culture. They are consuming fewer Hispanic-type foods and more traditional American items.
At the same time, Franzella said he sees new immigrants from the Middle East along with more stores that cater to that demographic.