Some produce sales influenced by economy, Beantown industry says

05/21/2014 04:00:00 PM
Jim Offner

Produce wholesalers and retailers in Boston say what they sell often reflects the prevailing economic circumstances around them.

Organics move when times are flush, and restaurant traffic and sales are brisk. A good economy often translates into higher sales for convenience items.

Produce dealers in Boston say they can gauge the economic climate through their sales.

Steven Piazza, salesman and president of wholesaler Community-Suffolk Inc. in Everett, Mass., said he can get a read on the economic landscape in two ways.

“First of all, people are being so aware of what they’re spending, from the consumers to the buyers up to the CEOs,” Piazza said.

Customers are always looking for value, but it’s more noticeable when they have to stretch their dollars, Piazza said.

“We do notice that when we do have a value, the volume kicks up substantially, and that leads me to believe that people’s food budget is limited, and when they can’t get a value, they recognize that,” he said.

There’s another factor to consider, too, which can lend some insight to how long the current economic downturn has lasted, Piazza said.

Herb and vegetable wholesaler Infinite Herbs, which is based in Miami with a location in Everett, continues to show strong sales, regardless of outside economic forces, said Camilo Penalosa, vice president of business development and partner.

The way they purchase the product, however, may be related to economic circumstances, Penalosa said.

“In tough times, they do go less to restaurants, but then they buy more fresh herbs in the stores because they feel like they have good food and they’re not substituting restaurants at home and getting the most for their money,” he said.

Whatever the current economy is doing, business has been brisk for New Bedford, Mass.-based wholesaler Sid Wainer & Son, said Henry Wainer, president.

“We’re having the best year in the history of the company,” he said.

That’s because customers always are looking for good product at optimal prices, he said.

“They want the variety in order to become competitive. They want to be better than anybody else. And they come to us for quality product,” he said.

Bob McGowan, Northeast Produce Council president in Burlington, Mass., and partner in Northeast Produce Sales in Wellesley, Mass., said economic forces can affect sales.

“I can tell you qualitatively, not quantitatively, there have been improvements in the economy, and I think consumers are more willing to spend and are buying more premium product, where I think a couple of years ago, it was a different story,” he said.

Others disagree.

“We’re pretty much insulated from the economy,” said Ken Cavallaro, treasurer of Chelsea, Mass.-based wholesaler John Cerasuolo Co. Inc.



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