Interest in eating healthy helps Atlanta produce distributors trucking product throughout the Southeast.

Wholesalers on the Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park, Ga., say they’re benefiting from bigger demand for fresh produce.

“Increasing fresh produce consumption has been a trend over the past few years and it really hasn’t changed,” said Robert Poole, junior partner and vice president of sales for Athena Farms, Forest Park.

“That trend is here to stay. As the population ages, particularly the baby boomers, I think more and more people will become concerned about their health, which is one of the driving factors. Produce is certainly a part of that equation.”

The growing public concern over ending obesity can only benefit fresh fruits and vegetables, said Andrew Scott, former sales and procurement manager for General Produce Inc. in Atlanta.

“A lot of these produce marketers are getting it right by trying to sell to the children of consumers,” he said.

“The kids are being targeted. You’re seeing more and more easy, single-serving packs for kids to increase consumption and more kid-friendly packaging. Look at McDonald’s. They put sliced apples in every single Happy Meal whether you order it or not. People are spending more money on fresh produce. We see it.”

Destiny Organics LLC, a part of Sutherland’s Foodservice Inc. in Atlanta, participates in events focused on health and wellness including the recent Alive Expo, which featured a Georgia Grown chef demonstrating healthy eating using products sourced by Destiny.

At another event, sponsored by the University of Georgia cooperative extension, Destiny provided children an opportunity eat and learn more about the source of vegetable toppings on their pizza.

“Produce consumption is definitely on the rise, and it’s great to see some education help bring awareness to good health,” said Diana Earwood, general manager of the produce division for Sutherland’s and Destiny’s general manager.

“On the foodservice side, the schools are really in tune with introducing children not only to the products but where they come from, how they are grown and who grows them.”

Cliff Sherman, owner of Sunbelt Produce Distributors Inc., Forest Park, said he can feel higher demand.

“I know I have more interest in it and believe in it,” he said.

“I see the link that way. I’m eating better and trying to live better. I see more demand and sales are increasing overall in fresh produce.”

Howard Mundt, president of Harvest Brokerage, Atlanta, said he’s changed his eating habits and has seen similar changes in his family.

“My son and my grandkids, they’d rather eat a piece of fruit than a piece of candy,” Mundt said.