Area’s a sweet spot for specialties

05/17/2013 02:42:00 PM
Jim Offner

Sales of specialty fruits and vegetables in the Boston area seem to be growing as knowledge about them increases, wholesalers say.

“Most of our business is geared toward chefs, and they’re always looking for something different, and that’s where we come in,” said Victor Simas, vice president of sales for New Bedford, Mass.-based Sid Wainer & Son Inc.

Boston is an ideal market for specialty items and vendors, such as Wainer & Son, who offer them, Simas said.

“We don’t do any what we call ‘center of the plate’ items, and I think the more options we can give our customers, the better,” Simas said.

Ruma’s Fruit & Gift Basket World, in Everett, Mass., offers wild ramps, a leek that is comparable to a green onion, said Mark Ruma, general manager.

“We sell them to some local markets,” he said.

Peter Condakes Co. Inc., Chelsea, has catered to Hispanic and Asian customers for years, and many of those items would be considered specialties, said Peter John Condakes, president.

“There’s a lot of things that might not be familiar to your traditional ‘European audience’ but they are to Hispanic customers,” Condakes said.

In fact, he said, a whole division of his company is geared to specialty items.

“It’s growing, but more slowly than others that have just jumped in and gotten a quick ramp up on it,” he said.

The company has offered specialty lines for at least 20 years, Condakes said.

There’s nothing specialized about figuring out how to succeed in the area, Condakes said.

“You try and pick up on trends. Sometimes you’re better talking a step of the pace and seeing how it works and seeing how you want to attack a certain commodity or segment,” he said.

Ed Ring, owner of Ring Bros. Wholesale, South Dennis, Mass., said his buyers are always watchful for trends.

“Basically, if it’s new we keep bringing it in,” he said, numbering purple asparagus, baby kale and several other specialty items among those his company sells at wholesale at retail.

Education is part of the process, Ring said.

“You keep promoting them, tell people how to cook them,” he said.

Specialties are “a solid category” and have been for a long time at Coosemans Boston Inc., said Maurice Crafts, salesman for the Chelsea-based vendor.

“We have recently started with seasonal items such as ramps, green garlic and spring onions,” he said.

The company also is seeing growing interest in baby kale, which is a newcomer to Coosemans, Crafts said.

“Baby vegetables such as carrots, peppers and miniature tomatoes continue to remain solid items on a year-round basis,” he said.

The Alphas Co., a Chelsea-based wholesaler that focuses on Asian and Indian fruits and vegetables, has noted growth in the specialty area, even in a capricious economy, said Yanni Alphas, president and chief executive officer.

“The economy hasn’t really affected it because the population is growing and growing in those segments,” he said.



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