Effects from recession linger in Kansas City, Des Moines - The Packer

Effects from recession linger in Kansas City, Des Moines

09/09/2011 02:36:00 PM
Andy Nelson

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Lingering effects from the recession continue to affect Kansas City and Des Moines-area distributors, but most companies have adapted and continue to increase sales.

One effect of the sluggish economy has been a greater reliance among some customers on staple items and slower sales of higher-end products, said Scott Danner, chief operating officer of Liberty Fruit Co.

Specialties and other costlier items are largely the domain now of upscale restaurants, Danner said. Retail, however, is another story.

“Retailers aren’t going as top gun (on specialties) as in the past,” he said.

And as far as organic is concerned, the Midwest is at least eight years behind the East Coast when it comes to demand, Danner said.

Also, more and more retailers are trying to lure consumers into the department with deals, Danner said.

A customer, for example, who in the past would only buy apples if they were size 88 or larger may also source a smaller apple now to get the price point down, he said.

The ultimate goal, Danner said, is “to keep customers away from three lists.”

In other words, offer everything they want at your store to prevent them from going to two others. And, in these tough times, that often means providing value items.

Liberty Fruit has seen the effects of the economy as it gears up for its annual golf fundraiser in September, which benefits Kansas City, Mo.-based Children’s Mercy Hospital.

The company expects to break last year’s fundrasing record, but it hasn’t been easy, Danner said.

“This year truly feels a little harder than even ‘08. It’s tough out there.”

Staples including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce are the big sellers for Norwalk, Iowa-based Capital City Fruit Inc., said Brendan Comito, the company’s chief operating officer.

Higher-end items are selling well, too, despite the economy.

“Avocados are at record prices, but demand is high,” he said.

In addition, sales of Hispanic and other specialty items have been robust, Comito said.

But it makes sense, he said, if you consider that the cost of an unhealthful food, in terms of its negative effects on your health, are factored in, compared to fresh produce.

“People think produce is expensive, but if you add in the costs, it’s cheap by comparison,” Comito said.

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