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Taste Of Chicago

This year's market trends and hot commodities

Weber cites the number of inde-pendents in the Chicagoland area as the “bread and butter” of the CIPM. “The independently-owned grocers feature fresh produce every day, 365 days a year,” he adds. Sugrue relishes the assortment of retailers in Chicago. “Beyond the well-known major retailers, there’s a healthy amount of independent retailers, and emerging retail stores for customers to choose from.”

Thanks to Chicago’s extended service area—which encompasses not only its sprawling suburbs but portions of Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin as well—Sugrue says there seems to be enough business to go around. “Chicago is one of the largest terminal produce markets in the United States,” he explains, “making it a key location for continued growth.”

Adolfo Vega, Jr., produce manager for La Hacienda Brands, Inc., a distributor located just outside of the terminal market, reflects the same sentiment. “There’s a lot of diversity in Chicago and a lot of different [retail] markets,” he comments. “I think it’s one of the biggest places to do produce business in the entire United States.”

Windy City Trends
In breezy Chicago, it seems the winds of change are constantly bringing in new trends. The past year or so suppliers have noticed several product developments as well as some shifts in demand.

Delivering More Options
In Chicago and across the Midwest, it seems prepared meals with fresh pro-duce are on the rise. “Home delivery services such as Blue Apron, Home Chef, Hello Fresh, and Plated seem to be growing and gaining popularity,” observes Weber. “It’s another market for the grower-shippers, and apparently, [consumers] are willing to pay for the very best quality.”

When these delivery services run short on product, Weber says they look to local terminals and foodservice com-panies to supply fresh product on a just-in-time basis. “It’s another op-portunity for the wholesalers and foodservice companies to move product and develop more business.”

In addition to home delivered meals, Weber has also noticed a surge of hot bars, salad bars, juice bars, and taquerias in many area supermarkets. “Naturally, these bars all use fresh produce,” he adds. “They’re often the best restaurants in the neighborhood!”

Along these same lines, Sugrue has noticed an increase in pre-cut and ready-to-cook produce. “Convenience is king,” he declares. “The on-the-go consumer has realized the benefit of having already cut or easily consumable produce such as pre-cut vegetable packages or bananas that require no utensils. Ready-to-cook produce has become more popular, but may not last as long on the shelves.”