By Mindy Hermann, RD
With the summer East Coast organic fruit and vegetable sales production complete, a pair of leading distributors, Four Seasons Produce and State Garden Produce, shared their thoughts on this year’s movement ---and some of the opportunities and challenges they faced.
Jonathan Steffy, director of sales and retail services at Four Seasons Produce in Ephrata, PA, said the berry category led the way, with exceptional quality and supplies available. “Organic strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries were top volume movers in June and July and the early part of August,” said Steffy. He added organic grapes, particularly Cotton Candy variety grapes out of Mexico were huge movers. “Mangos did well also, aided by the large number of retailers building large displays and heavily promoting organic mangos from Mexico.”
Steffy added there were a couple of break out items as well. “Summer of 2017 brought several surprises. Demand for organic avocados remained strong in spite of record high prices. We also had one of our best organic cherry seasons ever in terms of volume, duration and quality,” he said.
For State Garden Inc., located in Chelsea, MA, the summer of 2017 brought steady and consistent sales of its Olivia’s Organics leaf salads and greens. Mark Pins, director of marketing, said while there were no explosive volume products, sales were steady compared to last year. “We attribute that to two factors – easy summer weather and a seasoned organic customer who has settled into their organic buying habits,” Pins said.
When asked about which items are on the way up and which are waning, Steffy was quick to note that organic vegetable spirals/noodles were a successful product line making their first summer appearance.
He added the past few months may have mark the beginning of demand normalization for organic kale. “Organic kale has dropped out of the Top 20 in our unit and dollar rankings this summer,” said Steffy. “Local production in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic plus garden harvest on kale cuts into wholesale demand from retailers. We also saw a leveling off of consumer demand that made organic kale just a good mover, not a great mover, this summer."