Gamble said he has seen multiple approaches to improve sales on the retailer’s end.
“Some carry less variety, focus on grades that have lower retail price points, and try to increase movement,” he said. “Then there are people who have gone the other direction, offering more variety.”
North Country Produce has a broad and diverse customer base, so it has to be able to work with either tactic, Gamble said.
Some of the variable markets for tomatoes, onions and romaine this year are still affecting Minnesota wholesalers and distributors.
“We’re in the tomato business, so it affected us directly,” Gamble said. “And onions were very, very difficult.”
Brings Co., an onion repacker that is now part of H. Brooks & Co., New Brighton, Minn., has been working with variable onion markets all spring.
“It’s been an incredible spring. I’ve never seen anything like it in 30 years,” said Pat Coan, president. “I’m really glad we have the relationships we have with our growers around the country.”
Even with Texas entering the onion market, supplies weren’t yet where they needed to be in early May, Coan said.
“Texas doesn’t have enough crop either,” Coan said. “Arizona’s starting to open up, and Southern California.”
Although rumors of an economic recovery are plentiful, no one in the Twin Cities is willing to bet on a quick turnaround quite yet.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs, so it’s hard to say,” Hannigan said.
This year is already looking better than years past for Co-op Partners Warehouse, the distribution arm of The Wedge Co-op, Minneapolis.
“Sales are up 22% over last year,” said Tom Rodmyre, warehouse manager.
Rodmyre attributes the growth to people staying at home for more meals and being more conscious about their health.
“The economy here is picking up a little bit,” said Phillip Brooks, chef executive officer of H. Brooks & Co.
For Fridley, Minn.-based Roland Marketing, with its core business in staple items like potatoes, corn, apples and oranges, the economic downturn has had a minimal effect, said Dan Meuers, chief operating officer.