A vegetable hash made from Gold Coast Packing Inc. products. ( Photo courtesy Gold Coast Packing Inc. )

Summer may not be the busiest season for foodservice sales, but most suppliers report steady business even as schools close and families take off for vacation.

Foodservice business drops about 15% during the summer for Gold Coast Packing Inc., Santa Maria, Calif., said salesman Dave Johnson.

Unfortunately, that’s when the company has the most product available.

“During the summertime, when we have no issues with growing or availability, that’s when orders seem to lack a little bit,” he said.

The good news is that many schools only close for six weeks or so during the summer these days, not for three months, like they did in the past, he said.

The company’s foodservice sales are strong during the rest of the year.

Gold Coast’s foodservice business has grown steadily year over year for the past 10 years, Johnson said.

Broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, spinach and cilantro account for about 80% of the firm’s volume, he said.

Parsley, green kale, baby kale and whole leaf kale are some of the company’s other commodities.

During the summertime, when we have no issues with growing or availability, that’s when orders seem to lack a little bit.

Johnson noted some differences between retail and foodservice.

Foodservice buyers usually stick with a product over the long run, while retailers often cycle in and out, he said.

Pack sizes vary from customer to customer, he added.

Gold Coast’s most popular foodservice pack is the 3-pound size, but the company can pack larger or smaller sizes, he said.

Some California commodities that The Chuck Olsen Co. Inc., Visalia, Calif., offers, including lemons, oranges, cantaloupes, honeydew melons and grapes, started off a bit later than usual this season because of cool growing weather, said president Jeff Olsen.

Grapes from California’s Coachella Valley and Mexico were up to three weeks later than normal, but Olsen expected movement to be on time with no gaps when the deal starts in the San Joaquin Valley this summer.

One thing restaurants are doing to help boost sales is adding a delivery option, he said.

“That’s probably been a good shot in the arm for the restaurant business,” he said.

That is especially popular among younger consumers, Olsen said.

What we are seeing now is just a really steady, systematic growth in interest in organics from the foodservice industry.

Sweet potatoes are becoming more popular at foodservice, but operators may find supplies extremely tight this summer.

Adverse weather conditions in some growing areas have put a damper on some shipments after many growers cut back on plantings due to falling prices, said Tami Long, director of marketing and business development for Nash Produce LLC, Nashville, N.C.

Foodservice operators who don’t have a dedicated supplier may find it difficult to track down the tubers this summer, Long said.

But Nash Produce will be able to fill the needs of its foodservice accounts and is looking to take on some new customers, she said.

Long sees growth ahead for sweet potatoes at foodservice as consumers, especially millennials, call for healthy menu options, and as restaurants explore uses for sweet potatoes other than for fries or baked.

Organic produce never has been a big seller at foodservice, but that may be changing.

“What we are seeing now is just a really steady, systematic growth in interest in organics from the foodservice industry,” said Mark Munger, vice president of sales and marketing for Los Angeles-based 4Earth Farms.

He said he expects organic business to increase as more organically grown items become available and as their seasonality stretches to year-round.

The company considers foodservice “very much untapped potential,” he said.

“We have been working with our foodservice customers on trying to bring solutions to them and make it a little bit easier by offering a wider range of organic products to them so that they can look at more of a meal solution,” Munger said.

 
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