Local and fresh is the focus throughout the Twin Cities.
Dean Schladweiler, produce manager with The Wedge Community Co-Op, Minneapolis, said local is a selling point for the co-op’s customers.
“We boast our selection of fresh local produce,” he said.
There are a lot of options for retailers to find local produce, Schladweiler said.
“We have around 35 local farms delivering directly to the store for the department,” he said.
In addition, using local produce allows retailers to change out their produce department’s focus throughout the year as supply shifts through various commodities.
“We change our display sets to reflect the in-season produce at least three times a year. Now we are featuring stone fruit, melon selections, tropical fruit such as mangoes, and berries,” Schladweiler said.
Organic produce is another strong focus in the metro area.
Fred Haberman, co-founder of Urban Organics, an aquaponics organic growing operation in St. Paul, Minn., said local and organic don’t need to compete with each other, especially not in the Twin Cities, which has a healthy trend toward both movements.
“There’s absolutely a strong organic market here,” Haberman said. “We have seen the Twin Cities as not just a great market, but a pioneering market. I see those trends working together. Both are really important,” Haberman said.
Others agree the metro has a thriving organic market.
Jeff Swanson, director of corporate communications for Supervalu Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., has seen a growing demand.
He said the company has seen double digit grown in organic at Cub Foods over the last year.
“That’s due in part to making it a bigger part of our offerings, and including organics more in promotions and weekly ads,” he said.
Pat Miller, vice president of Russ Davis Wholesale, Wadena, Minn., said the company always features organic produce as part of its promotions.
“We want to talk about organics as we go through each promotion because of the growth we’ve seen in that category. I can’t stress that enough,” Miller said.
Still, despite trends, local produce, organic or otherwise, can only be supplied when it’s available, something Phillip Brooks, chief executive officer of New Brighton, Minn.-based H. Brooks & Co., said is limited in the Twin Cities area.
“The development of local growing here is challenging. We’ve just experienced a polar vortex and last year was also a short season, so for conventionally grown product, the season is short,” Brooks said.
“There’s just not a long growing season, so the bulk of product still has be shipped in,” Brooks said.
When supplying local produce in an area of the country where cold weather is the normal more months of the year than not, consistency can be a challenge for shippers.
“When the local crop isn’t consistent, sometimes we have to be pretty quick at adjusting,” said Nina Brooks Haag, director of marketing and strategy for New Brighton, Minn.-based H. Brooks & Co.
Wholesalers and distributors agree that the best way to handle supply is to communicate with everyone involved.
Schladweiler said Wedge Co-op’s warehouse, farm and store help it manage supply.
“Communication is the key to that success. We have direct communication with each farm and work with each of them to the fullest,” he said.
Swanson said a mix of local and non-local produce is the key to supplying the Twin Cities market.
“We get a combination of local, seasonal produce as well as what we bring in through wholesalers,” Swanson said.
Miller said the whole industry is moving toward local produce, and promotions can help that trend.
“Consumers really concentrate on where the product is grown and we’re seeing our customers jump on board more with these promotions,” Miller said.
He said a locally grown promotion is one of the biggest the company offers each year. It includes a big contest, among other features.