PHILADELPHIA — Local produce remains a big draw for customers shopping the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.
Distributors say they’re receiving more requests for local produce and say they expect demand to grow.
“The local deal is getting bigger every year,” said Jimmy Storey, president and owner of Quaker City Produce Co. “A lot of people want Jersey Fresh. They’ve done a fantastic job marketing their product. Local is becoming bigger here.”
Located within an hour of New Jersey fields and close to regional production in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and New York gives Philadelphia distributors an advantage in transportation cost savings.
Pinto Bros. Inc. is a longtime purchaser of Maine broccoli.
Todd Penza, salesman, said East Coast broccoli crown production continues to increase, and the distributor enjoys success with it.
“Though the quality is comparable to California’s, it still comes down to quality,” Penza said.
Pinto Bros. gets requests for locally grown from foodsevice operations too, he said.
“The big thing for foodservice is they want to know the name of the farm they’re getting it from and want it all the time,” Penza said.
Rick Milavsky, vice president of BRS Produce Co., said he sees more interest in the area production.
“We have had some of the same farmers for over 25 years,” Milavsky said.
“When the local-grown is out, people want it. We take a hit down here because a lot of our customers outside of the market are getting product from the local farmers as well.”
Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., agrees that the summer season puts pressure on wholesalers.
“Local has always been preferable,” Wiechec said. “The same time everyone has a big push with local produce, a lot of our customers have someone who’s a neighbor of theirs trying to get rid of their excess inventory.”
Mark Levin, co-owner of M. Levin & Co Inc., asks what is defined as local.
“Everyone likes to buy local, but the problem is no one can decide if you’re getting produce from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, if that’s still local here,” he said. “Are Delaware watermelons local? Does it have to be in Pennsylvania or Philadelphia? What’s the radius to consider it local? The radius is getting bigger and bigger as the crop starts to diminish.”
Procacci Bros Sales Corp. sends buyers to the Vineland, N.J. Co-op Produce Auction to buy loads of regional produce.
Mike Maxwell, Procacci’s president, said retailers do well promoting local products.
“They have signs pointing out the regions,” Maxwell said. “Local is almost taking over organic, for many reasons.”