Changes in Northwest marketplace cause industry to adapt - The Packer

Changes in Northwest marketplace cause industry to adapt

07/07/2011 09:43:00 AM
Dan Gailbraith

Dale Hayton, sales manager for Valley Pride Sales, Mount Vernon, Wash., said the concerns of growers include the high price of fuel and fertilizer and the issues growers had in planting earlier this spring.

On the buying side, a tough economy has retailers watching their costs.

Hayton said there is some attrition among retail stores and the foodservice outlook is cautious.

“It is a real competitive market place right now,” he said. “Everybody is trying to buy cheap.”

Median household incomes also tended to be substantially higher than the U.S. average in the key Northwest state of Washington. The Census Bureau reports median household income in Washington state in 2009 was $56,479, compared to the U.S. average of $50,221. Meanwhile, Oregon median household income in 2009 was $48,325, slightly less than the U.S. average. Idaho’s median income for 2009 was $44,644.

Hispanic and Asian consumers are important factors in the Northwest. Asian and Hispanic consumer markets each account for about 8% of the Seattle market, Agri-Food Canada reports. Meanwhile, Portland’s Hispanic consumers account for 9% of the market, with the Asian population at 3.5%.

Factors influencing retailers in the Northwest include growth of the organic food market, climbing demand for ethnic food and general societal trends of an aging baby boom population, smaller family sizes and the demand for convenience in meal choices, the report said.

Schindler sees an increase in the variety of fruit sold, in large part because of the influence of ethnic populations in the region.

“I used to never sell pomegranates, but that is now a major item,” he said.

A more diverse customer base, with many ethnic backgrounds, is a driving force in much of the fruit stand business, Schindler said.

“If a Russian person sees a good deal on cabbage, he will buy tons of it,” he said.

Seattle is the main driver in the Northwest U.S, accounting for about 25% of the region’s population of close to 13 million people.

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