Produce suppliers in Philadelphia say they recognize the growth trend for organics, and a number of them offer organic options.

One company, Procacci Bros., has made a big commitment to the category, said Mike Maxwell, president.

“Organic is one of our major commodities, and we have a full line,” Maxwell said.

Philadelphia, like many metropolitan markets, is gaining appreciation for organic produce, Maxwell said.

“All the major metro areas are becoming more aware of organics. We’ve not even hit all its potential yet,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say Philly is any different than, say, Baltimore or New York. There’s a lot more restaurants promoting this, and more people are getting behind it. It’s more to do with awareness.”

Other suppliers agree.

“We are seeing growth in organics from both the independent conventional retailers who are adding more organics to the mix and the natural food stores/co-ops who are experiencing growth despite the increased competition from conventional chains,” said Jason Hollinger, general manager of Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Produce Inc.

Organics still are a niche item, though, said Tom Curtis, president of Philadelphia distributor Tom Curtis Produce Inc.

“It’s a hit and miss proposition for most of the guys here — very little comes in here,” he said. “Overall, maybe it’s 10% of what comes here.”

Carrying organic product requires a commitment and brings challenges, Curtis said.

Mark Levin, co-owner of Philadelphia-based wholesaler M. Levin & Co Inc., said his company offers certain organic items.

“We carry organic bananas, grapes, apples and, from time to time, we’ll carry other organic items, but not a lot,” he said.

“Everybody wants organic, but nobody wants to pay the extra money for it.”

Stephen Secamiglio, partner in Philadelphia-based wholesaler Colonial Produce, said organic is an “overhyped” category, at least in part because of cost factors.

“It’s not a big deal here because all the customers that come to this market aren’t going to pay us a premium for organic product.”

 
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