The BMT is also one of the few terminal markets with a “common room” where all tenants have sales desks and displays. “This room is located at the front of the building so buyers can come inside out of the weather and be super-efficient by seeing numerous companies in one small area,” he explains. Within this common room, there are displays of the product, and vendors can wheel out a pallet if customers want to take a closer look.
“If one customer is not familiar with where to get a certain commodity, we can point them in the right direction,” Piazza says. “The sense of community within the building shines in this setting. When people are working toward a common goal, things go more smoothly.”
The Latest Fads
Overall, vendors at the NEPC and the BMT say things have been “business as usual” for the past year. However, they have noticed a few interesting trends, particularly rising demand for greenhouse vegetables; the ongoing rage for locally grown produce; kale; and yes, avocado sales are still climbing.
Like shoppers across the nation, Boston consumers are constantly on the lookout for fresh fruits and vegetables grown close to home. “We’ve seen more and more demand for local product,” says Messinger. “That’s tough around here, because it’s only available a few months of the year—but people still want to know it’s local.”
Peter Condakes Company has been handling New England grown vegetables since its inception. “We’ve been selling locally grown for years,” observes Condakes. “Locally grown peppers, squash, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants—when they come in, all of those products are very popular. We also have plenty of locally grown apples. That’s the biggest locally grown fruit item that we handle.” In addition, he says avocadoes remain an “extremely hot item” this year.
“I think everyone is getting more health-conscious,” says Piazza. “The item that’s really taken off is kale,” he says, noting sales have tripled. Indeed, the popular leafy green now appears on 400 percent more restaurant menus than five years ago, and has also provided a boost for other high-nutrient, healthy items hailed as ‘superfoods.’ Piazza says arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mixed greens, and baby greens are all climbing in demand too.
Greenhouse vegetables are also a top draw on the Boston markets. “We sell a fair amount of greenhouse vegetables,” says Dominic (Skip) Cavallaro, president of John Cerasuolo Company, Inc., on the NEPC. He says they import greenhouse vegetables from Mexico in the winter and from Canada in the summer. While the bulk of his greenhouse product is imported, Cavallaro says he did source a small amount from a Virginia greenhouse this year.
Going Green & Reducing Waste
Many Boston suppliers are ahead of the curve on ways to make their businesses sustainable. Peter Condakes Company overhauled its “power management about six or seven years ago, and it saved us quite a bit of money, probably 20 to 25 percent,” shares Condakes. There are also better waste protocols in place, including a designated “in-house waste management employee rather than an external outfit,” he explains, “so we handle it ourselves.”