A slower overall economy isn’t harming specialty produce demand and sales.

Wholesalers on the Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park, Ga., say sales are consistent.

Brian Young, vice president of Coosemans Atlanta Inc., said demand remains steady. The purveyor of about 650 stock-keeping units is experiencing steady growth, he said.

“Fortunately, specialties will always be a part of our industry for the simple reason that chefs are continually looking for something different and unusual,” Young said.

Chefs at Atlanta’s many hotels and country clubs want colorful items and things that add zest to their menu offerings, he said.

“Chefs love to see what’s out there and what’s new and creative and what they can do that’s different,” Young said. “It’s all about taste, texture and presentation. They want the ‘pow!’ in their presentations.”

Young said people are always discovering the value of fresh herbs, a segment in which Coosemans is seeing strong sales growth.

Coosemans distributes specialty produce to retail and foodservice distributors within a 250-mile radius of Atlanta, which includes northern Florida and parts of Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Specialties help chefs stand out among the crowded restaurant sector, said Robert Poole, junior partner and vice president of sales for Athena Farms, Forest Park.

“A lot of times, chefs get in a rut,” he said. “We encourage them to come to our facilities and see the new items. I can talk with him about it on the phone, but it’s different (when) they come here and see something they may have played around with in culinary school but hasn’t thought of since. That’s one thing we really encourage and a way we try to differentiate ourselves from the competition.”

Athena distributes primarily to upscale restaurants, hotels, country clubs and caterers in the immediate Atlanta metropolitan area.

Phoenix Wholesale Foodservice Inc., Forest Park, is experiencing increasing demand for specialty produce.

Though the distributor has sold and distributed exotic items in the past, David Collins III, president, said specialties demand keeps increasing.