“The state of the economy has made sales more challenging,” he said. “The smaller guys out there are feeling the pinch a lot. You have to find a way to continue to grow and get a wider customer base. You have to work smarter because the amount of business out there isn’t what it might have been in the past. To maintain an upward growth pattern, you have to get creative.”
Coosemans distributes specialty produce throughout the state.
James Killebrew, vice president of Baird Produce Inc., said the foodservice jobbers he sells to are making fewer orders and reducing the size of each order.
“They’re not seeing any big increases,” Killebrew said. “Their orders are consistent, but they are smaller than what they have been in the past. Not everything can continue to rise, I understand, but we do need to make sure we’re staying steady. When things start going down, that’s when you have to look at things to cut. After years of cuts, there’s not a lot more you can cut. We have to avoid going down even more.”
Baird distributes produce throughout Florida, sending trucks to Jacksonville, Miami and Fort Myers.
Steve Roza, owner of S. Roza & Co. Inc., said the city remains strong.
“Tampa is a growing city,” he said. “Pretty soon, three will be all housing projects from Tampa to Orlando.”
Meanwhile, the aging Tampa Wholesale Produce Market Inc., founded in 1934, continues with only minor improvements to the facility, said Peter Filippello, general manager.
“A couple of vendors on the market are redoing some of their office areas,” he said. “We did a major parking lot repaving on the south lot last year.”
In the land of Mickey Mouse and the metropolitan region that attracts millions of tourists to many of the state’s leading tourist attractions, produce sales are holding their own, said Robert Ondrus, director of category management for produce for U.S. Foodservice Inc., Rosemont, Ill.
“Things are steady,” Ondrus said. “People are still spending their money and taking their families out. They may drive more versus flying, but we’re seeing a steady economy.”
Ondrus said a mild winter caused many Northeastern and Midwestern visitors to postpone their trips to Florida until after the holidays.
Despite characterizing sales as steady, Ondrus said U.S. Foodservice, which distributes to many attractions, hotels and restaurants throughout Florida through its Boca Raton, Port Orange, Lakeland and Tampa distribution centers, is experiencing an uptick in sales.
“Things are going very well this year,” he said.
Sales remain difficult in north Florida’s largest metropolitan area, said Seth Movsovitz, vice president and part owner of Produce Distribution Center LLC, Jacksonville.
“It’s a very challenging produce economy,” he said. “Some of the volume is down with a lot of the foodservice customers overall. You have a lot of companies that are adjusting margins.”
Movsovitz said Jacksonville’s economy is struggling. He said the city endures a high unemployment rate and that produce distributors eagerly await the day when business begins to increase.