Green technology helps Testa Produce attract young customers

12/07/2012 03:45:00 PM
Tom Karst

CHICAGO — Going green has paid off for Testa Produce.

The family-owned firm’s embrace of environmentally friendly technology in its 91,300-square-foot facility that it moved into in 2011 draws notice from foodservice customers, president Peter Testa said.

“It has paid off, big time,” he said.

Customers, particularly younger customers, are interested in environmental factors in the supply chain.

“For my generation, it was more about price, price, price,” he said. “Now, the younger generation is not only concerned about price, it is also interested in the history of the produce.”

Testa said suppliers and vendors that work with Testa, which celebrated 100 years in business in 2012, also are increasingly touting their steps toward sustainability, as well as asking for advice.

“We ask those all those questions and we find it is more they are calling us to get ideas on how to reduce their fixed costs,” Testa said.

Beyond its strong focus on customer service, Testa said many of the firm’s foodservice customers appreciate the environmental steps Testa has taken, including wind and solar energy, energy-efficient mechanical design and an eco-friendly Ammonia Glycol Refrigeration System.

“We’ve had major customers come through here and re-sign up and give us additional business because of our green practices and because of what we have done here,” he said. “Most of the customers we deal with now, they want to see that their suppliers are doing things that are good for the environment and good for the earth,” he said.

“If you are that type of company, they want to do business with you. They want to support you,” he said.

Angie Bader, marketing coordinator for Testa Produce, said foodservice remains a priority for the company, with limited sales to retailers.

Hotels, restaurants, hospitals, country clubs, schools, represent the bulk of Testa’s sales, she said.

The firm primarily markets to Chicagoland, Peoria and central Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.

Bader said the Testa building offers more space, allowing more product to be brought in and more product to be efficiently shipped out.

“In our old place we had eight dock doors that we were receiving and shipping out of, and in this building we have 20 docks we are able to ship out of and 10 docks we are able to receive from,” she said.

The firm is in the process of adding electric trucks to its fleet, and Bader said the all-electric, zero-emission vehicles have a 100-mile operating range and will be used for downtown routes.

The company also plans to add about 10 trucks that use compressed natural gas by the first quarter of 2013.

Bader said the company hopes to transition out of diesel and biodiesel trucks over the next five years or so. The company currently operates about 80 trucks out of its facility.



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