Foodservice slow down little noticed by ethnic produce grower-shippers, marketers

06/22/2010 02:11:58 PM
Don Schrack

Though Pardi Produce Inc., Edinburg, Texas, also markets to retail, distributors and foodservice a wide variety of vegetables targeted at ethnic groups, the restaurant slow down was little more than a small speed bump, said Gus DiNovo, president.

“We never really felt the foodservice dip,” he said.

Another factor that is boosting retail sales is that many commodities once thought of as Hispanic or Asian food items are becoming mainstream, DiNovo said. He pointed to cilantro, a commodity used by a variety of cultures.

“Before holidays or big events such as the Superbowl, sales of cilantro just skyrocket,” he said. “In fact, the consumption curve for cilantro has been going up for several years.”

Fresno, Calif.-based Baloian Farms has for many years grown, packed and marketed Asian favorites napa cabbage and bok choy among its inventory of mainstream vegetables. Napa cabbage and bok choy usually are sold to wholesalers or distributors who, in turn, service Asian restaurants, said Jeremy Lane, sales manager.

If the recession slowed sales for customers of Baloian Farms, the dip was nearly imperceptible, he said.

“If we do see a slowdown in foodservice sales, we probably won’t notice until we start our bell pepper season this spring,” Lane said. “That’s when we have more direct sales to foodservice.”

“We haven’t really noticed it,” said Adrian Capote, sales manager for J&C Tropicals, Miami, of the recession’s blow to foodservice.

“Actually, we’ve seen an increase in our business,” he said.

One reason, he said, could be that J&C Tropicals markets many ethnic food items tailored to low-to-medium income families. 

Across the country in Los Angeles, the foodservice slowdown caused only a slight decrease in foodservice business at World Variety Produce Inc., said Robert Schueller, director of public relations.

“And the decrease was concentrated in the West,” he said.

As with other marketers, World Variety made up for the decrease with increased revenues from retail, Schueller said.

Yet another grower-shipper-marketer noticing a slight dip in foodservice business was M&M Farms Inc., Miami. Higher retail sales more than covered the foodservice dip, said Mark Vertrees, marketing director.

“People must eat,” he said. “Our products are very much like potatoes are to the average American. They are the staples of the diets of Hispanic and Asian families.”


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