Indianapolis and its surrounding areas continue to evolve in their cultural and ethnic diversity.
Large corporations such as Salesforce, Cummings Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co. have invested heavily in downtown Indianapolis in the past couple of years, drawing thousands of diverse employees, said Daniel Corsaro, director of sales and marketing for Indianapolis Fruit Co. Inc., Indianapolis.
And a big change in the retail landscape came in May, when longtime local retailer Marsh Supermarkets filed for bankruptcy.
The company ended up selling 25% to 30% of its Indy locations to Ohio-based Fresh Encounter and a Kroger subsidiary, while shuttering the rest in July.
However, the retail market continues to include major retailers such as Kroger, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
“The market in general is vibrant, with a growing consumer base that’s more educated in their produce choices, making new dishes from different cultures,” he said.
Indianapolis Fruit is a full-service produce wholesaler that serves Indianapolis and its surrounding 15 states.
The company offers customized merchandising and produce department analysis, as well as overarching retail strategy for its customers.
Indianapolis deals with the transportation challenges common to the Midwest produce industry as it trucks in produce from the coasts — fuel costs and driver availability are important considerations in adding new business.
Nonetheless, this year, Indy Fruit grew its distribution reach into West Virginia and Virginia, adding trucks and drivers in these areas.
“This was natural growth for us over the past couple of months,” Corsaro said. “This allowed us to work to expand our reach in this area.”
The company launched a new website Oct. 1 at www.indyfruit.com full of product details and sales and merchandising tools.
Corsaro said he’s also starting to see retailers meet a wider range of consumer expectations.
“The biggest trend in Indianapolis, and across the country, seems to be more produce departments going to prepared foods and value-added and prepackaged sets,” he said.
Indianapolis Fruit offers repacking and processing to supply this fresh-cut industry.
“With shoppers having limited prep time, retailers are asking themselves what value their prepared products are providing,” Corsaro said.
Offerings include fresh-cut and ready-to-cook bags of dinner staples such as potatoes or other vegetables to accompany meals.
Retailers are looking to personalize shoppers’ retail experience with unique offerings and recipes, he said.
“We are looking to analyze culinary trends in 2018 and beyond, and help retailers get in front of them,” Corsaro said.
“We, as wholesalers, have strong analytics that can benefit the customer shopping experience.”
For example, he said cauliflower rice and mash were popular in foodservice before they made their way to retailers.
“Chefs are driving retailers to offer unique product lines,” Corsaro said.
Rick Harsnett, sales manager for Springfield, Ill.-based distributor Tom Lange Co. Inc.’s Indianapolis office, said business was good for the company this year including increasing its number of accounts in the foodservice area.
He attributes the addition of business to a tight availability of trucks for the company’s customers.
For 2018, Harsnett said he anticipates continued growth.
“In my opinion, we’ll have increased business given the trucking situation and new regulations on e-logs,” he said.
Sister company Lange Logistics plans on hiring a couple of more truck brokers for the company’s Indianapolis office starting early next year, Harsnett said.
On the wholesale side of things, Tom Lange’s Indianapolis office also picked up some new customers this year because of changes in the trucking business.
“There’s less equipment and more demand,” Harsnett said.
“The right equipment and truck at the right time gets your order.”