Produce sales pick up in Atlanta - The Packer

Produce sales pick up in Atlanta

06/15/2012 09:36:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Fresh produce sales in Atlanta range from steady to strong.

And steady is enough for distributors on the Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park, Ga.

They say they’re glad for the business, and some even report increasing business.

Atlanta’s overall economy remains sound, said Nickey Gregory, president and owner of Nickey Gregory Co. Inc., Atlanta.

Gregory said his wholesale operation experienced a strong year last year and that sales increased 8% over the previous year.

Gregory said retail sales also remain healthy and that the sector is experiencing bigger gains compared to the foodservice segment.

“Everyone is watching how they spend their money, but in produce we are on track,” Gregory said. “People are more cautious. This thing about everyone’s house being foreclosed, that makes them more cautious with their money.”

Cliff Sherman, owner of Sunbelt Produce Distributors Inc., Forest Park, characterizes produce sales as strong.

“The produce economy has been pretty good,” he said in late May. “A couple of companies might be limping a little because they’re not paying attention to what they’re doing like everyone else, but I see everything staying pretty strong. People are eating and business is growing. Our sales are up 10-20% from just last year, so that’s a good thing.”

Sales are improving, said Diana Earwood, general manager of the produce division for Atlanta-based Sutherland’s Foodservice Inc. and Forest Park-based Destiny Organics.

“Everything at one point came to a screeching halt for everyone,” Earwood said. “There was some tough times here. But we see changes and increasing interest. People seem to have a little more money to spend, based on what our customers are buying from us.”

Howard Mundt, president of Atlanta-based Harvest Brokerage characterized the region’s produce sales as tough but still strong.

He points to the opening of manufacturing assembly plants.

David Collins III, president of Forest Park-based Phoenix Wholesale Foodservice Inc., said a stronger Atlanta economy is on its way.

“The economy in Atlanta is trying to take off. For so many years, Atlanta was like the top of the bell curve. It was really growing and saw continued growth. But then it slowed. Now we’re starting to see some ground getting broken and new activities taking place.”

Phoenix distributes to foodservice purveyors while its sister company, Collins Bros. Corp., services the region’s many retail chains.

Andrew Scott, sales and procurement manager for General Produce Inc., Atlanta, characterizes the Atlanta area produce economy as steady.

He noted, however, the low prices of certain items, including tomatoes.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of markets this year,” Scott said. “All the markets have been real flat. We’re selling the same amount of units, but the sales dollars are lower, which equates to lower margins.

“This isn’t good for us as we are selling the same amount of units and competing against everyone else out there that has cheap pricing. The markets need to get up all around.”



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