Specialty sales also have persevered, distributors report.
Garcia called specialty sales strong.
“They are selling fairly well,” he said. “Everything sells better when product is tighter, but once you get regular customers on them, it’s a lot easier to sell. Sometimes, it takes a little while to introduce it to them, but if you develop 10, 20, 30 people to buy them, that’s all it needs. It only takes a limited amount.”
Garcia said Krisp-Pak sells many items considered specialties such as French beans and green and white asparagus.
One item that doesn’t do that well is purple asparagus.
He said he’s tried to sell it before but it’s a difficult sell. Garcia said no one likes that color of asparagus.
“It’s too hard to sell, and I thought I could sell everything,” Garcia said.
Specialty produce remains a vibrant category, said Joel Panagakos, executive vice president of J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y.
“I will say that some of the price challenges that it offers has created the need for some of the guys that are always looking for something new or different to utilize some of the mainstream items which were once considered specialties,” he said. “Because they have become more affordable, we don’t consider radicchio or endive to be specialty items anymore.”
Despite the economy, Granata said specialties have sold well.
He said many specialty items receive attention when cable television channels such as The Food Network feature them in recipes.
“Specialties have taken a nice little leap,” Granata said. “You get people willing to spend a few extra dollars on those items.”
Diners also see such items featured in restaurant menus and want to try them in their home meals, Granata said.
He said New York has a strong appetite for specialties.
RLB offers a full line of specialty items, including blood oranges, pink navels, heirloom navels and sweet limes.