Diana Earwood, general manager of the produce division for Sutherland’s Foodservice Inc., Atlanta, and general manager of Destiny Organics LLC, Forest Park, said demand is increasing in retail and foodservice channels.
“Buyers are requesting local produce on their everyday menus and are featuring it for special events,” she said.
“They also appreciate any marketing information that can give a quick glimpse of the grower and farmer. Buyers from every segment are interested in local. We also really enjoy helping the producers bring their products to market.”
Earwood said the Georgia Department of Agriculture in Atlanta successfully promotes the state’s produce as local so much so that consumers are requesting Georgia products.
Howard Mundt, president of Harvest Brokerage, Atlanta, said local demand is often seasonal.
“Our customers mix it in well,” Mundt said. “They always have. But everything is price motivated. They like local because they don’t have the freight and it’s cheaper. I think we all have to wait and see where this goes.”
Cliff Sherman, owner of Sunbelt Produce Distributors Inc., Forest Park, said he doesn’t see dramatic interest in it.
“There’s nothing crazy in the demand,” he said.
Sherman said Sunbelt considers Georgia local for the squash, green beans and sweet corn and other items it distributes to its retail and foodservice customers.
Coosemans Atlanta Inc. sources most of its specialty produce from overseas but also buys some local product.
The key is food safety, said Brian Young, vice president.
“Regardless of whether it’s local or from abroad, you have to deal with reputable growers,” he said.
“The biggest concern is when you start buying local, the growers are generally of a smaller size and don’t always have what would be required or needed in the event of a food illness outbreak. We try to support the local entity where we can but don’t want to buy from an entity that sets up shop overnight that doesn’t have the proper safety programs in place.”