TAMPA, Fla. — Florida produce wholesalers say they’re positioned to benefit from all the favorable buzz surrounding the benefits of eating fresh produce.
Nutritionists and government officials encouraging Americans to eat more fresh can only help the business, distributors say.
Chuck Bruno, vice president and general manager of DiMare Fresh-Tampa Inc., Riverview, sees the general trend of increasing produce consumption.
“All of these produce companies in this state, we’re all on the same team in respect to promoting fresh fruits and vegetables regardless of the items we do or don’t offer,” he said. “It’s all the same thing.
“Educating schoolchildren so they eat nutritious meals containing fruits and vegetables can carry on for a lifetime.”
Robert Ondrus, director of category management for produce for U.S. Foodservice Inc., Rosemont, Ill., said Florida’s theme parks and schools are developing tastes for fresh produce.
“You look at places like Disney World — all the theme parks are looking for more healthy and nutritious foods,” Ondrus said. “Many are taking french fries off the menus for kids and are doing different things like offering apple and orange slices and pineapple pushups.
“They’re looking for highly nutritious foods that are easy to use and handle easily.”
Ondrus said schools also are requesting more local products.
“They’re doing more with produce, and they want to have locally grown products,” Ondrus said. “The schools are interested in local. In this state, a child can really say he’s eating his dad’s oranges and lettuce. People are very proud of their produce.”
Ondrus said U.S. Foodservice works closely with growers to provide local product to the schools.
Though schools generally aren’t a fertile ground for specialty produce, Justin Warren, general manager of Coosemans Tampa Inc., said he’s receiving many calls from customers who serve schools.
Because school systems source product through foodservice purveyors, Warren said Coosemans doesn’t distribute directly to the schools.
“We have had some very large orders for starfruit and clementines, fruit that kids may not have seen,” Warren said.
“They’ll buy a pallet quantity of starfruit and trust me to bring that in for them, that it’s right and will fill the school order they have. That has been a big one lately. There have been a lot of orders.”