Alphas Co. enjoys strong demand for specialty line

Now in its sophomore year, the Asian and Indian specialty produce line continues to be a big success for Chelsea, Mass.-based The Alphas Co., said Yanni Alphas, president and chief executive officer.

“It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.

A variety of specialty eggplants and squashes and bitter melon are among the line’s big sellers, Alphas said.

BC Produce increases rail use for spud shipments

Because of a big Idaho potato crop this season, Chelsea, Mass.-based BC Produce Inc. is sourcing more russets from Idaho and fewer from Prince Edward Island, Canada, said Sam Rocco, the company’s president.

That means a heavier reliance on rail shipments, he said.

CSX trains come into the New England Produce Terminal five nights a week, Rocco said. There are two tracks behind the BC shed and a remote track on the other side of the market.

BC brings in potatoes, onions, oranges, lemons and other commodities either by rail or via piggy-back, he said.

Rail service has improved in re-cent years, particularly at the Selkirk railyard near Albany, N.Y., where cars are reallocated before making the final run to Boston, Rocco said.

“Selkirk used to be a disaster,” he said. “There was a time when cars would disappear for a week. Now they go in and out in a day.”

Still, it’s not perfect, Rocco said. Rail is still not as dependable as trucks, and whether shipments come on time is subjective.

“It depends what you mean by ‘on time,’” he said. “But what are you going to do? It’s the nature of the beast. I think they’re doing a

Cerasuolo Inc. undergoes shifts in staffing

Angelo Melito has left the sales desk of Chelsea, Mass.-based John Cerasuolo Inc., and Dominic Cavallaro has increased his sales duties for the company, said Ken Cavallaro, the company’s treasurer and Dominic’s uncle.

Melito left the company Jan. 1 and now works for Boston Tomato Inc., Cerasuolo’s neighbor on the New England Produce Terminal, Cavallaro said.

Condakes adds tomato packaging machinery

By mid-spring Peter Condakes Co. Inc., Chelsea, Mass., expects to have a new tomato packaging machine installed, said Peter John Condakes, the company’s president.

The machine will be able to pack clamshells by weight, instead of by volumes, Condakes said.

That will ensure a more accurate pack and help prevent overpacking, which can bruise product when the clamshell lids are closed.

The new machinery also will require two fewer laborers, he said.

The company’s clamshell tomato packaging machinery will be kept on site as a backup, Condakes said.

Coosemans Boston beefs up sales force

Coosemans Boston Inc., Chelsea, Mass., has added a fourth salesman, said Maurice Crafts, a salesman for the company.

Dave Braga joined the company in August. Like the company’s other three salesmen, he handles general sales duties, Crafts said.

For Braga, it’s a return to the produce industry. He grew up in a family business, part wholesale/part retail Lawrence, Mass.-based La Fruteria.

Braga took over the company from his parents when they retired, later sold it, then took a job in the insurance industry before coming back to produce, he said.

Lisitano Produce adds bora bora squash to lineup

Lisitano Produce Inc., Chelsea, is looking forward to the sophomore season of a squash deal it kicked off last year, said Arnold Amidan, a salesman for the com-pany.

A Massachusetts grower Amidan sources from got a tip from Brazilian acquaintances to take a shot at growing the bora bora variety of squash, Amidan said.
The variety is imported from Brazil into New York, where it is popular among people of Brazilian and Dominican descent, he said.

Lisitano Produce sold 50 pallets of it in 2009 and made a tidy profit, Amidan said. This year, the Massachusetts grower has said he’ll triple that amount.

The bora bora, a dry, flavorful squash with a very bright interior color and long shelf-life, has been very popular with Amidan’s Hispanic and Asian customers.

S. Strock & Co. acquires banana-ripening facility

Chelsea, Mass.-based S. Strock & Co. has added bananas to its product lineup.

In late 2009, the company ac-quired a banana ripening facility just outside the New England Produce Center, said Michael Strock, director of business development.

Strock & Co. made the move to provide more value to its customers by increasing and improving the services it offers, Strock said.

“To better meet the needs of our customers, we are in a continual phase of improvement,” he said.