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Taste Of Chicago

This year's market trends and hot commodities

It may not be a landmark tourists can flock to like the Museum of Science and Industry or the Shedd Aquarium, but the Windy City’s wholesale terminal—the Chicago International Produce Market (CIPM)—is an institution in the Midwestern produce industry.

The CIPM contributes to a booming food industry with more than 7,300 restaurants and nearly 300 grocery stores so visitors and residents alike can taste Chi-Town’s famous foods, from the Chicago Hot Dog (chocked full of fresh vegetables) to deep-dish pizza (smothered with chunky tomato sauce and a variety of toppings).

At the heart of the Windy City’s food business are the CIPM’s merchants, many of whom have been with the market for decades and are third- and fourth-generation family businesses. There is also a fair number of wholesalers based off the market, preferring to conduct business out of nearby facilities where there’s more space, less congestion, and supposedly, less competition.

An example is Blue Island Produce, Inc., an importer specializing in avocados, located across the street from the CIPM. “With the market right across the street, our location is an advantage,” comments Alicia Suarez, the company’s office manager, who believes less congestion can mean better customer service.

Broad Shoulders & Big Benefits
Chicago, known as the “City of the Broad Shoulders,” offers some awesome advantages to produce businesses. First and foremost is the city’s ideal location: it is nestled on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan near the nexus of six interstates, exceedingly helpful for domestic and international trade.

“Chicago is one of the most im-portant markets in our global shipping network, thanks to its connectivity to Class I rail, ocean shipping, truck transportation, and one of the world’s leading airports,” explains Ryan Sugrue, general manager of sourcing in Chicago for Robinson Fresh. “This location enables our customers to have better access to these transportation options, and positions our company to build on our decades of rapid expansion in Chicago,” he adds.

Scott Weber, vice president of Ruby Robinson Company, a distributor located outside of metro Chicago in Buffalo Grove, says the Windy City offers endless sales opportunities for produce professionals. “As a grower/ shipper/distributor, one of the advantages of doing business in Chicago is we have the entire spectrum of businesses to sell to,” he points out. “We sell to wholesalers and terminal market accounts, foodservice companies that are publicly traded or privately owned, and super-markets, which are publicly traded and privately owned.”