Crew members operate electric forklifts at Fresh Taste Produce Ltd., based at the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto. The family-owned company is an importer, packer, wholesaler and distributor of a wide range of fruits and vegetables and serves all of Canada from the food terminal, says Julian Sarraino, chief operating officer. ( Courtesy Fresh Taste Produce Ltd. )

Suppliers say business is booming at Toronto’s Ontario Food Terminal, where dozens of produce companies provide customers throughout the city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and much of Canada with an extensive variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and other items.    

Gambles Ontario Produce offers up to 200 items, including citrus, dips, dressings, juices and even a large selection of floral items, said marketing manager Sarah Taylor.

“A lot of our customers are looking for a one-stop shop, someone who can provide them with all their produce needs,” Taylor said.

The company does business with a number of independent retailers but also works with several of the restaurants that have popped up in the Toronto area and with companies that prepare meal solutions for retailers.

Meal solutions orders can be very specialized, she said. For example, a meal solutions provider may place an order for a pack of 100 jalapeño peppers.

“Gambles focuses on sourcing products out of Canada and the U.S., while our Go Fresh subsidiary company sources products from outside these two regions and across the globe,” Taylor said.

Another company on the market, North American Produce Buyers, has a “distinct reputation in the marketplace,” said Stephan Schmekel, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

The company has exclusive programs with its growers, most of whom pack only very high-quality products, he said.

“They will not sacrifice quality for tonnage.”

The firm sources grapes, stone fruit and citrus from places like Chile, South Africa, Peru and Israel.

“During the domestic deal, we have some exclusive programs with growers in California as well,” he said. “We go around the globe and follow the crops.”

North American Produce Buyers is known to have some of the earliest stone fruit available when the Chilean deal comes around, he said.

“We cover the whole country,” Schmekel said, from Vancouver to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“We’ve had to adjust to the different markets,” he added. “The cultural difference between Quebec and Ontario is pretty dramatic.”

Fresh Taste Produce Ltd. works with produce sources in 35 countries in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe, said Julian Sarraino, chief operating officer.

“We handle a full line of fresh fruits and vegetables, juices and value-added items,” he said.

The family owned company keeps busy transitioning from one growing area to the next, handling a wide range of commodities.

Fresh Taste Produce is an importer, packer, wholesaler and distributor of a wide range of fruits and vegetables and serves all of Canada from the food terminal.

“We specialize in customer service,” Sarraino said.

The company’s diverse customer base includes retailers, processors, jobbers, wholesalers, institutions and foodservice operations.

J.E. Russell Produce Ltd., also on the market, offers organic and conventional berries, organic and conventional packaged salads, tropical items like avocados, mangoes, kiwifruit, pineapples and citrus, and a full organic vegetable line, said Hutch Morton, senior vice president.

The company primarily serves the greater Toronto area but also serves the entire province and all the way east to the Maritime Provinces, he said.

While the majority of its imports come from the western U.S. and Mexico, the company also has products from all over the globe along with local items from Canada and Ontario.

“We market a lot of local mushrooms, cucumbers and leafy greens,” Morton said.

“We are a family owned company and cherish the connection to local family farms and growers.” 

In the value-added category, J.E. Russell Produce sells organic pastes and organic dried herbs. 

The company prides itself on its personal touch that has “fostered a company culture that puts the specific needs of each customer at the forefront of all business interactions, regardless of the size of that customer,” Morton said. 

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