By Doug Ohlemeier of The Packer:
MIAMI — Foodservice and retail sales of fresh produce in The Sunshine State remain brisk.
Demand from restaurants and institutional foodservice customers including schools and military as well as supermarkets and other customers keeps produce moving in Florida, wholesalers report.
In Orlando, the area’s many restaurants, hotels and theme parks make for consistent distribution.
Ernie Harvill, president of the Orlando-based Harvill’s Produce Co., said business is solid.
“Disney seems to be doing well and everyone here seems to be holding its own, which is good,” he said. “This area has quite a bit of foreign tourists and the snowbirds are doing well this season. With the Northeast catching a lot of bad weather, that’s sending more people down here.”
For the Tampa Bay region, sales remain steady, said James Killebrew, vice president of the Tampa-based Baird Produce Inc.
“Normally, this is the season for foodservice sales,” he said in mid-February. “However, they’re not quite as active as what they were hoping for the year. They were expecting to see even more of an increase, but I don’t think it’s been quite as much as they were expecting. Still, it’s better than it was and has only been increasing over the last few years.”
In the Miami area, the many restaurants and clubs on the famous South Beach, as well as resorts and casinos and other foodservice venues, keep produce orders moving, said Bruce Fishbein, a partner with The Produce Connection Inc., Miami.
“The restaurants in this area are doing very well,” he said. “The beach, especially on weekends, is very busy. Business is better than it’s been the last couple of years.”
The Produce Connection also services schools and military installations and the company was recently awarded a four-year contract renewal from the Department of Defense as a prime vendor to serve the region’s many military operations, Fishbein said.