To make the drop-off process more efficient, Ben E. Keith implemented an order scanning system in its trucks.
About 80% of the company’s fleet has it, Sewell said.
“It’s helped us reduce delivery times and increase order accuracy a great deal,” he said.
South-central Texas is dominated by San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Co., but several companies are expanding southward from Dallas-Fort Worth.
Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi Inc. plans to open its first Houston location in the suburb of Katy, and Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s plans to open a handful of Texas stores this year.
Even Austin-based Whole Foods Market Inc., plans some hometown expansion, doubling its number of stores in the Austin area to four.
Minneapolis-based Target Stores Inc. also is a company to watch. Target did extensive marketing for its fresh produce in Dallas and Austin in 2011, including a radio jingle by Austin-based artist Alyse Black.
Norman Scott, retail salesman for Chefs’ Produce, said he’s seeing expansion of Target’s fresh produce program in Houston.
“Target is a retailer to watch in the Houston area,” he said. “It looks like they’re making a go of it here. There’s not a lot of items in produce, but it’s such a draw at those stores.”
Scott said Cincinnati-based Kroger and HEB still have a strong presence in Houston.
“They’re both very powerful in this market,” he said.