Produce sales in the Northern California market seem to vary by commodity and by company this fall.
“Business is growing,” said Guy Davidoff, an owner of Twin Peaks Distributing Inc. on the Golden Gate Produce Terminal in South San Francisco.
Citrus, peppers, avocados, grapes, mangoes and cucumbers are some of the company’s main commodities.
“With the economy doing well, the Bay Area is a very special place,” he said. “And we have some of the finest restaurants in the world, so foodservice (business) is good, and the wholesale market is good.”
But some distributors had a different perspective.
“(Business) seems slower this year,” said Vince Franzella, salesman at Franzella Produce Inc., also on the Golden Gate Produce Terminal.
The company ships a lot of vegetables and leafy greens, but Franzella said it’s hard to project what’s in store for the coming months.
The wholesaler usually has a pretty good hard squash program, he said, “but there have been weird weather patterns, and things have been coming in at different times than they normally do.”
Business on the produce market seems to have been picking up over the past three months, said Pete Carcione, president of Carcione’s Fresh Produce Co. Inc. on the Golden Gate Produce Terminal.
Buyers from smaller stores and others seeking high-quality produce seem to be coming back to the market, he said.
It’s unfortunate that buyers from major supermarkets no longer visit the market, Carcione said.
“I’m trying to convince the chain buyers to take one or two days a week and take a walk around the market,” he said.
Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt Inc. in San Francisco moved off the market four years ago to concentrate on its shipping business rather than marketing, said Craig Rolandelli, vice president.
The company ships sweet corn and asparagus.
“They’re both doing extremely well,” he said, with sweet corn sales spiking during the summer and asparagus sales highest from February through May.
There’s good news and bad news in the organic segment, said John Stair, domestic commodity manager for Pacific Organic Produce in San Francisco.
“We have certainly found challenges with regard to a degree of deflation in pricing, although in many commodities we have an uptick in units sold,” he said.
Lemons out of the California desert are a current highlight for the company, which has “taken on a significant marketing role” for a major organic lemon grower.
Stair expects a heavier-than-normal lemon crop with promotable volume out of the desert through January. Grapefruit also will be available.
Pacific Organic Produce also will have heavy volume of organic grapes and mangoes, and the Washington apple and pear season began in late summer.
Robert Lichtenberg, director of purchasing for Earl’s Organic Produce on the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market said supermarket organic sections seem to be expanding in Northern California.
“We actually have a couple of stores that don’t have any conventional produce at all — that sell all organic produce,” he said.
The Northern California/San Francisco area is “one of the most-educated regions for organic food in the U.S.,” he said, “and people are willing to pay a little more for quality.”