Local and organic will continue to be front and center for Indianapolis Fruit Co. in 2016.
“It’s a theme that’s consistent not only in Indianapolis but throughout the Midwest,” said Daniel Corsaro, who works in business development for Indianapolis Fruit. “It’s great for us.”
For a variety of reasons — the drought, labor issues, transportation costs, to name three major ones — sourcing from the West Coast is getting harder and harder, Corsaro said.
That’s what makes the increase in locally-sourced fruits and vegetables so important for Indianapolis Fruit and other distributors in the Indy area, he said.
“The more we can source locally, the better. And local growers are starting to invest in their operations more, as they realize the demand is there.”
Indianapolis Fruit distributes to 14 states, so the definition of local isn’t fixed, Corsaro said.
Tomatoes and different varieties of kale are among the hot local items for the company, which sources locally from more than 250 growers, Corsaro said.
In organics, one area of growth has been an increase in the number and kinds of retailers that carry it, Corsaro said.
“A lot of the smaller and more rural banners that were always reluctant to spread out on organics now see the need to offer it.”
Another key has been lower prices, he said. Some organic items, like broccoli, often sell for about the same as conventional.
Organics account for 28-30% of Indianapolis Fruit’s distribution business, Corsaro said.
Hot items in the category for Indianapolis Fruit include bagged salads and steamable vegetable medleys and other convenience items.
Also helping to drive growth for Indianapolis Fruit and other Indy companies is a rapidly growing retail scene, with Giant Eagle at the top of the list of new players in the market, Corsaro said.
“Retailers are starting to realize that Indianapolis is a great market.”
Indy, he said, is starting to get some of the retail attention formerly reserved for bigger Midwestern neighbors like Chicago, Corsaro said.
And new grocers means new opportunities for companies like Indianapolis Fruit to grow, Corsaro said.
“The more stores you can get in, the more ideas you can come up with. Our goal has always been to help retailers differentiate themselves. When there are this many, it’s a great learning ground for our people.”
For Corsaro, it all adds up to a healthy outlook for Indianapolis Fruit.
“Business is really good. I don’t know how many years in a row we’ve grown, but we’re growing again. We’re adding business in other states.”
Indianapolis Fruit recently started deliveries to Minnesota, and Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri and Iowa are among the other states where it’s growing, Corsaro said.
“We’ve expanded a little further than we thought we would. We’ve had some good referral opportunities, and we’ve been able to go out and capitalize on that.”