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A Historic & Contemporary Mix

Diversity drives demand at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market
Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market

Pennsylvania’s famous capital city, Philadelphia, is alive with landmarks and historic figures ranging from Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross to Edgar Allen Poe.

In a metro area that thrives on its buzzing diversity and modern flair. In a city where the historic and contemporary merge. The Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market is no exception and reflects the same energy as its eclectic hometown.

The hearth of the original wholesale produce market on Dock Street dates back to Colonial times; while the new high-tech market celebrated its fourth birthday this year on Essington Avenue and continues to ring in praise from vendors and customers alike.

Talking About Imports
The PWPM has seen an increase in imports as product lines evolve. The swelling numbers in both variety and quantity are predominantly due to the region’s many ethnic communities.

Since the summer of 2014, John Vena, president of the nearly century-old John Vena, Inc., says the company has increased its volume of pears from China, and recently added both green and yellow plantains. “We have our own ripening rooms, so we’re able to control the process ourselves, which has allowed us to increase volume on a wider range of tropical roots and vegetables.”

Another receiver on the market, Mark Levin, CEO of M. Levin & Company, Inc., works to carry a full line of tropicals to accommodate all tastes and culinary influences. Some of the newer items the 109-year-old company imports include rambutan, white and red dragon fruit, mangosteens, and passion fruit. Although the company also procures coconuts, tomatillos, okra, and an extensive list of traditional Hispanic items, Levin notes that Korean, Chinese, and Russian commodities are also gaining popularity at the market.

“We’re continuing to offer staples in many Latin American, Caribbean, and West African diets such as yuca, chayote, calabaza, and others,” confirms Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Bros. Sales Corporation. Although demand for avocados, mangos, and papayas has grown substantially in recent years, he believes we’ll see other “exotic and tropical produce skyrocket as population dynamics change and consumer preferences shift.”

This is not to say more ‘ordinary’ fruits and vegetables are not hot commodities at the market. Potatoes, onions, carrots and the like are still big sellers, and the kale craze is in evidence as well. “We definitely sell a ton of kale, over the past two years the volume has increased by 40 percent,” confirms Stephen Secamiglio, a partner at Colonial Produce, Inc.