Florida’s fresh produce companies hope to score with Super Bowl

01/05/2010 02:08:40 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

MIAMI — The Sunshine State is again hosting the Super Bowl, and it could prove a boon to fresh produce-related business.

Super Bowl XLIV is scheduled to be played Feb. 7 at Land Shark Stadium, also known as Dolphin Stadium, in Miami Gardens.

Distributors such as Walter Vazquez Jr., chief executive officer of Freedom Fresh LLC, say the national event brings a lot of attention to the city hosting the game.

The many functions and festivities surrounding the event also help kick start business.

“It should be a good two weeks with lots of celebrities and lots of parties,” he said.

“It’s definitely a huge attraction that increases produce demand. It should definitely benefit the south Florida economy.”

The event, no matter where it is held in Florida, benefits produce purveyors in other cities, distributors reported.

A big help to sales will be the Miami stadium hosting this year’s Pro Bowl, the NFL’s all-star game scheduled for Jan. 31, a week before the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLIII, held at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in February 2008, helped boost sales, said Roy Kane, vice president and managing partner of Coosemans Tampa Inc.

“It was a big kick for specialties,” Kane said. “Everyone did it right.”

Kane said sales increased a good 50%. During a year when the Super Bowl is held in other cities, sales go up 5% to 10%, he said.

During the week of the Super Bowl, hotels, restaurants and other attractions in the entire south Florida region, from Florida City north to West Palm Beach, remain packed with tourists and game attendees.

“Super Bowl starts a complete chaos which goes all the way through March and Passover,” said Jack Scalisi, president of Jack T. Scalisi Wholesale Produce Distributors, West Palm Beach.

Marshall Glantz, director of business development, exports and executive director for American Fruit & Produce Corp., Opa Locka, Fla., said the Super Bowl packs the Miami area.

“Everyone is affected by it,” he said. “It should be good for the foodservice people.”

Distributors as far north as Jacksonville feel the effects of the Super Bowl draw.

“The Super Bowl has become what you would call a holiday,” said Larry Movsovitz, chairman and managing director of Produce Distribution Center LLC, Jacksonville.  “I think it may affect us by 25% while where it is, it might affect them by 40%.”

The Produce Distribution Center sells many packs of carrots and celery as well as tomatoes for hors d’oeuvre dishes used in the sports bars, he said.

“You would be amazed at how many tomatoes are used for the salsas that we sell,” he said. “Those are big ingredients.”

Louis Garcia III, salesman and buyer for Crews & Garcia Inc., Tampa, said he doesn’t think the event will bring much business.

“I’m sure there was a little more business last year, when it was here, but it wasn’t a lot,” he said. “In the past when the Super Bowl was here, you could see a big difference. But last year, with the way the economy was, there wasn’t that big of an effect on anything over here.”

James Killebrew, vice president of Baird Produce Inc., Tampa, said the event usually doesn’t bring a large increase in sales.

“We usually have a little bit of an increase, and this past year was a little bit beyond what I expected for that,” he said. “It’s better than a Super Bowl in California, but not enough to where I will lobby to make sure we have it here every year.”

While the Super Bowl remains popular, Jacksonville residents don’t attend games played by their own NFL team, the Jaguars, as much as in other cities. Instead of spending money for expensive game tickets, Movsovitz said many people go to sports bars to watch the games.



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