Philadelphia-area groups help sell specialties

09/22/2008 12:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Ethnics’ purchasing power

M Levin & Co Inc. has increased its specialty sales after receiving better connections with Costa Rica shippers, said David Levin, co-owner.

“We are getting better deals on tropical items,” he said. “We’re seeing more consistent supply from the same people so they are more interested in taking care of you.”
Levin has sold tropicals a long time but has expanded its tropical sales as the region’s ethnic population has grown.

Levin’s plantain business has increased up to 40%.

“Even if the mainstream American public doesn’t pick up on a lot of these items, the Latin community is, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Levin said. “The big chains aren’t geared to ethnics as much as they could be. They’d like to carry everything, but their buyers and merchandisers aren’t really equipped to keep up with them.”

Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., said many mid-Atlantic-area supermarkets don’t do well selling specialty produce appealing to ethnic groups.

“It’s probably the most overlooked by the retailers,” Maxwell said. “You have to build big displays. You can’t have only one or two root items. You have to have the full selection. If you don’t address the needs of those customers, you’re insulting them.”

Maxwell said he recently visited a store that had five black plantains displayed. The produce guy said he needed to throw them away. Maxwell said he told him that’s the way plantains are sold.

“There’s a population out there that eats plantains morning, noon and night,” he said. “If you don’t have them out there in bulk quantities, you’re saying you don’t have that stuff for them and are not opening the door for them.”


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