With organics, Rodmyre said there is a debate over whether large chain stores should be able to be certified organic without having each of their stores separately certified.
“The organic certification process is good for everybody down the road because we have to be traceable all the way back to the grower, which is huge,” Rodmyre said.
Many of the larger chain stores self-ship, so they have little need for local distributors. The presence of large chain distributors in Minnesota, like Sysco and U.S. Foodservice, are also making it hard for the smaller guys.
“From our perspective, we’re seeing in the marketplace more than ever is two separate camps: the corporate types, who have no need for little independents like us and are more and more gobbling up businesses like us, and our camp, small companies still trying to maintain in the marketplace,” said Paul Piazza Sr., president of Minneapolis-based Minnesota Produce Inc.
Retail shopping patterns have changed, too, with this past year’s slumping economy.
“People are shying away from more expensive food items,” said Adam Gamble, general manager of the North Country Produce division of distributor Russ Davis Wholesale, Inver Grove Heights. “Some retailers are going to smaller size fruit, better price points.”
Discount retailers are gaining market share, Gamble said.
“People selling the most inexpensive produce are selling the most,” Gamble said. “We hope that trend slows down by the end of the year.”
As a wholesaler, North Country Produce has expanded its offerings to appease the demand for lower-priced items.
“We’ve had to bring in a broader range of sizes and price points of products for cost demand,” Gamble said. “We have a very broad range of customers, different categories of retailers.”