Supermarket business holds steady in Tri-State region

02/28/2011 03:10:25 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Though sales to the foodservice segment have declined, some wholesalers say retail sales have kept pace.

Supermarkets and the metropolitan area’s many green grocers rely on the Hunts Point Terminal Market for supplies.

The terminal market focuses on the smaller and medium-sized independent retail chains.

Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market, said retail sales are holding steady.

“Retailers are doing fine,” he said. “When money gets tight, people tend to turn to cooking at home. To me, it’s a retail-enhancing event if money gets tight and foodservice declines. People want to stretch their dollars. I have seen very few green grocers go out of business.”

D’Arrigo noted how 7-Eleven plans to open 20 stores in the New York area.

“There’s very little in the retail world that concerns me or would give me concern that there’s something up,” D’Arrigo said. “That is where all the value is, in retail.”

Carlos Garcia, general manager of Krisp-Pak Sales Corp., New York, said sales to the segment appear strong.

“I know some who have independent stores, like the Korean supermarkets, or have very large stores, and they are fairly busy,” he said. “If you have the right place and set yourself up well and do a good job, you’re busy year-round. Sales are definitely strong in retail. Everyone wants to cook his or her own food. People still go out to eat but not as much as they used to.”

Richard Cochran, president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., New York, said he hasn’t noticed any significant changes in grocery store purchases.

“It’s just ho-hum. Nothing exciting,” he said. “You ask them how business is going, one will say bad, and the other says OK.”

Fresh-cut sales remain strong in the region.

RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J., which processes product through its FreshPro processing division, has seen strong demand for fresh-cut products, said Joe Granata, director of produce.

“We had a record year last year,” he said. “Our fresh-cut business has expanded incredibly.”

Granata said fresh-cut has been one segment that has grown significantly as RLB does more processing for companies that prepare meals for large chains.

Fresh-cut sales, however, weren’t as strong in 2008 and took a big hit during the recession, Granata said. He said buyers were reluctant to pay $2-3 for 8 ounces of cut cantaloupe and would instead buy whole fruit.

Retail growth remains strong, Granata said. He said the segment has seen about a 5% increase in 2010 compared to previous years.


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