In Atlanta, fresh produce sales booming at retail - The Packer

In Atlanta, fresh produce sales booming at retail

08/20/2014 09:01:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

ATLANTA — The supermarket scene in one of the largest cities in the Southeast continues to grow.

As other retailers try to enter the market, the segment remains highly competitive.

Wholesalers that serve the category say that helps keep produce moving.

“In terms of retail, Atlanta has always been a hotbed where you have so many different retail brands,” said David Collins III, president of Forest Park-based Phoenix Wholesale Foodservice Inc. and Collins Bros. Corp., Phoenix’s retail distributor.

“Retail business is growing. Some chains are not doing as well as others, but the Publix, the Whole Foods and the Krogers, they’re all doing well.”

Many smaller independent chains vie for spots in Atlanta’s retail marketplace.

Collins said remnants of former players, including Piggly Wiggly, were doing well on the independent scene in Atlanta.

The mix of ethnicities, including Hispanics and people from Jamaica, South Korea and Africa, helps fuel sales, said Cliff Sherman, owner of Sunbelt Produce Distributors Inc., in Forest Park.

“They all buy a lot of produce,” he said. “There are more mom-and-pop places and their stores are aggressive. They just get out there and hustle. Business is up for us and it’s a very competitive deal. Everyone is fighting for the same piece of the pie.”

For retail, Sunbelt sells to the smaller independent chains that operate with one to three stores.

Coosemans Atlanta Inc., sells to a variety of retailers in the area.

“This area is very competitive,” said Brian Young, vice president.

“All the major players are here and we’re seeing new ones enter the marketplace to see if they can penetrate it with any kind of market share. You have your Krogers, your Publix, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. It makes for a good selection for the shoppers.”

Young cited Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market as one of the latest marketplace entrants.

Nickey Gregory, president and owner of Nickey Gregory Co. LLC, attended a grand opening at one of Sprouts’ locations.

“They should do well here because they have a good concept,” he said.

“Everybody needs to grow so they’re coming to this city. They should do very well with their concept here because it’s a nice presentation to the public when they first enter the stores.”

Sprouts’ entrance is a sign of a highly competitive and growing retail scene, said Diana Earwood, vice president and general manager of the produce division of Sutherland’s Foodservice Inc. and general manager of Forest Park-based Destiny Organics LLC.


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