LEAMINGTON, Ontario — Greenhouse growers enjoyed an unexpected side effect of low prices last year when foodservice clients developed increased interest in their products.
Several growers reported that foodservice business has been slowly increasing in recent years, but the price slump for their produce last year made their products more attractive.
To further encourage that growth, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association has been working with chef Anthony Dalupan in recent years, said George Gilvesy, the association’s general manager.
Dalupan and a number of other chefs preparing samples at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in October all said they prefer greenhouse vegetables. Some even said they have converted from organic to greenhouse produce because of its uniform flavor and appearance.
At Mastronardi Produce Ltd., Kingsville, foodservice business is steadily increasing, said Chris Veillon in late January.
“We have a foodservice team dedicated to double-digit growth in that sector,” Veillon said, adding that the team has been working to increase the company’s foodservice business for the past three-plus years.
Carl Mastronardi, owner and president of Del Fresco Produce, Kingsville, said foodservice clients make up about 8% to 10% of his business now, but it is growing.
“I’ve got two sushi wholesalers who are buying cucumbers,” he said. “I never thought of my cukes and sushi, but they seem to like them.”
The key is getting the foodservice clients to try your produce, said David DiCiocco, director of DiCiocco Farms, Leamington.
He said they have had good luck with their cucumbers at higher-end restaurants and even some fast food restaurants.
“Once they try greenhouse produce they understand the flavor is better and more consistent,” DiCiocco said.
Jordan Kniaziew, vice president of sales and marketing at Orangeline Farms, Leamington, agreed with DiCiocco’s assessment.
He said foodservice buyers used to think they couldn’t afford greenhouse produce.
“As prices fell, foodservice started buying greenhouse vegetables because of the better flavor,” Kniaziew said. “It is a good growth area for us because we specifically grow for flavor profiles, and that’s what they want.”