“We have some new customers that are new to the New Jersey area. They are not retail but industrial customers,” he said.
Sam Pipitone, president of F&S Produce Co., agreed there is a lot of room for profit for those willing to take the risk, especially at a time when many growers and suppliers are acting conservatively.
“We expect the window to be quite significant,” Pipitone said of the New Jersey spinach deal that he is re-entering after a lapse of several years. “We found an opportunity for us to have raw material again, sourced nearby and able to market.”
Pipitone said the spinach crop has an early start this year from about mid-April to June, a break in the middle of the summer, and then will pick up again in the fall.
He is working with a private label and he said the company seized this opportunity because of the guarantee of support and encouragement from its partner, providing “a nice extension to our product line.”
Chris Cunnane, national sales director for Santa Sweets, Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., Philadelphia, said despite the downturn and across-the-board search for savings and efficiency, the demand for flavorful tomatoes has not subsided.
“There are people that are connoisseurs of tomatoes and they know flavor for this Ugly Ripe in particular. It almost has a romantic connection for a lot of people,” Cunnane said of Procacci Bros.’ “old fashioned” tomato seed variety based on calls, letters and e-mails.
Cunnane said the variety is not typically grown commercially because of its low yields, but he supplies the tomatoes to select stores where a loyal following will pay for the premium produce.
“There’s definitely a percentage of the population that loves tomatoes,” he said. “If they love it and perceive it as something that is worth the money, they’ll buy it.”