“Last year, for example, we had eggplant in the shade house for the first time, so when the open-field stuff was gone, we were able to still provide eggplants. A lot of the red peppers out of the shade house are a big foodservice item, and the cucumbers that come out of the shade house are better than the field cukes. I think the foodservice guys are getting used to seeing those, too.”
Pressures that a down economy can exert on the foodservice sector are considerable, but the greenhouse category continues to do well there, said Mike Aiton, marketing director for Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif.
“It’s still a substantial part of how Americans get their produce, so, for us, we’re very pleased with our progress in the foodservice business,” Aiton said.
“I think we’re getting better at marketing and providing the products the foodservice customer wants. We’re very intrigued with the potential on the foodservice side of the business. It’s been a good growth area for us.”
Foodservice-related economic pressures have varied, said Jim Cathey, general manager of Del Campo Supreme Inc., Nogales, Ariz.
“I think it’s OK,” he said.
“It has gotten better than when the big crunch first hit. Certain segments are showing better numbers. I think that has to do with the economy more than anything. I think your higher-end and your white-tablecloth restaurants might be the ones that are continuing to suffer a little bit.”
Some growers and shippers are more heavily involved in the sector than others.
“Foodservice is something that we are thinking about now, but it’s not our big market,” said Marie Gosselin, director of sales and marketing with Portneuf, Quebec-based Savoura, which just opened a greenhouse operation in Mexico.