To say there’s a lot going at J&J Distributing Co., St. Paul, Minn., this spring would be an understatement.
The company has added equipment from Turatti, an Italian-based company that will give it capacity to process more than 100,000 pounds of lettuce, leafy greens, onions and other vegetables each day, said Kevin Hannigan, executive vice president.
The equipment will help the firm make a big push into foodservice and private-label lettuce programs, as well, he said.
J&J Distributing also is working with New York-based BrightFarms Inc. to develop a 38,000-square-foot greenhouse at its St. Paul location. Hannigan expects the new facility, which is being built under Mayor Chris Coleman’s Rebuild St. Paul initiative, to provide 60 new jobs.
Greenhouses enable growers to extend the region’s relatively short growing season into September or October, help drive locally grown food into the supply chain and even enhance the farm-to-school salad bar program, he said.
In line with the greenhouse trend, the company has become a distributor for vertical tower gardens that enable consumers to grow things such as herbs and tomatoes on their own patios.
The company has expanded its fresh-cut processing area to 45,000 square feet, added new software and improved traceback capability and is looking into offering more value packs, including blends of items that are part of the “new food frontier,” such as raspberries, pomegranates and blueberries.
“We’ve know they’ve been delicious and awesome for years,” Hannigan said. And many of the items are gaining popularity due to Facebook, food bloggers and the food networks.
J&J Distributing also is adding some innovative offerings to its veggie segment, including salsas and guacamoles that use “seasonally relevant ingredients” — such as Vidalia onion mango salsa or Vidalia onion relish.
The company has its own citrus juice department and a preconditioning operation in which avocados, pears, tomatoes, bananas and mangoes are ripened “until they’re just right,” Hannigan said.