MONTREAL — While the poor economy may be discouraging many Montrealers from spending more for organic fruits and vegetables, Audrey Menard and her term at Bercy Foods report “tremendous growth” in the wholesaler’s Bio Buenisima! program over the past year.

The key to success, said Menard, Bercy’s sales and purchasing manager, is to source organic produce from around the world at the best price, package it right, and offer plenty of merchandising tips so that anyone can sell it, from convenience stores to hospitals.

Wholesaler goes extra mile for organic

Cynthia David

Many of Bercy Foods' Bio Buenisima! organic products are packaged in threes. The Montreal-based company sources organic produce from around the world, says Audrey Menard, sales and purchasing manager.

“You can’t let the economy stop you or say let’s wait ‘til next year,” Menard said. “It’s not clothing. You have to pick it and pack it.”

To negotiate the best price, Bercy works directly with organic growers around the world whose certification is recognized in Quebec.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” said Menard, who encourages chains to promote their organic section weekly so customers know it’s there before they walk in the door. “At this time of year, we need to contact four growers to buy three pallets of lemons.”

The newest member of Bercy’s experienced team is retail specialist Miguel Bronco.

Many of the more than 300 Bio Buenisima! products are packaged in threes, which might be a rainbow of three large apples or pears, three avocados or three kiwis.

A three-pack of organic apples may retail for $2.99 at Sobey’s, and $1.99 to $2.29 on ad.

“We’re using packs that make sense for the consumer,” Menard said. “There’s basically enough for one serving, or one recipe, so you use it up and come back and buy more.”

The packaging itself, which includes the Buenisima! label plus the original Price Look-Up sticker from the grower on each piece of produce, assures consumers that they’re truly buying organic, keeps the product safe from contamination and prevents errors at the checkout, she said.

“Some stores prefer to display our packages in their conventional produce section,” she said, “while others like to keep them separate. We give them posters, recipes, any merchandising tool they need. We want to make it easy for almost everyone to carry a small organic section.”

The produce arrives at the store or warehouse in Bercy’s lime green cartons, so it’s instantly recognizable as organic, Menard said.

Individual trays are a natural beige cardboard or recyclable oxo-bio tray, the plastic shrink wrap is biodegradable, and Bercy is looking for a supplier of biodegradable ink.

The 3-year-old company is a sister company of wholesaler and importer Courchesne Larose.