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Taste Of Chicago

This year's market trends and hot commodities

“We knew the sales were out there, but we had to figure out how to get them,” he explains. “This past year, if you went on autopilot, the plane was going to come crashing down—and I think some of it had to do with the election.”

Fortunately, most businesses have seen a steady uptick in sales since the election. Marchese’s Wandersee is plenty optimistic about the rest of the year. “We’re looking forward to a good year in 2017.”

Do you think the Trump presidency will affect your business or the industry as a whole?

Jim Lemke – President, Robinson Fresh
We remain optimistic of the pro-business and agriculture stance presented in Trump’s campaign. That said, there are three actions we monitored before the election and continue to monitor that have the opportunity to significantly impact our business: corporate tax rate cuts, trade reform, and immigration reform. Corporate tax rate cuts will have a positive effect on our (and all) business, allowing us to invest more capital back into growing our company. Investing more capital means hiring more people, purchasing more services—all things that help grow the economy. However, [President Trump] has also commented on proposed immigration reform—depending on his final proposal, many of our growers within the United States may feel an impact on their workforce.

Mark Pappas – President, Coosemans Chicago, Inc.
It’s still too early to tell, but Trump seems to be more business-friendly with less regulations, which I think could potentially help us. I know it’s harder to bring in product like tomatoes right now, but I’m optimistic. I hope he makes things more conducive to doing business, and I think the whole political climate will eventually calm down. I will say the influx in the stock market is a good sign. Traditionally, when the stock market is doing well, consumers spend more money in stores and restaurants. So, I hope it will be a positive impact.

Daniel Suarez – President, Blue Island Wholesale Produce, Inc.
I think it will affect us because most of our customers are Mexican, and [many will be] going back to Mexico. So, there will be less business here—Mexican customers are our bread and butter.

Adolfo Vega, Jr. – Produce Manager, La Hacienda Brands, Inc.
I certainly hope not. It’s still fairly early in his presidency, so we’ll see. As far as the taxes he wants to put on Mexican imports, there hasn’t been anything shown of it yet. So, until something actually happens, it’s hard to predict how it will impact us.

Branden Wandersee – Head of Operations & Purchasing, V. Marchese, Inc.
All I can tell you is that before the election, it was very slow for us and a lot of area restaurants, too. But after the election, we’ve seen a steady increase in sales. So, I think it’s looking positive.

Scott Weber – Vice President, Ruby Robinson Company, Inc.
Regarding the Trump presidency, I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude. I’m not worried in the least that it will negatively affect our business at Ruby. We adapt to changes quickly. It’s possible Trump’s policies will affect the labor pool at the grower level, which may make it more difficult for growers to maintain and develop business. Of course, I’m referring to immigration.

It will be interesting to see if his policies change, improve, or relax the food safety regulations we all are dealing with at this time. Food safety has become very complicated and extremely expensive. It’s good for consumers and a challenge for the produce industry.

Vince Gregosanc, Jr. – Buyer, Battaglia Distributing Company, Inc.
President Trump won’t be able to touch NAFTA—he’s too much of a business man (and a darn good one if you ask me). When you get into the fiscals and financials of it, I don’t see it hurting us. There are going to be a lot of revisions, no matter who is president: the industry changes, times change, markets change, the dollar’s value changes. So it doesn’t matter whether we have a Republican or Democratic president—NAFTA was born on the premise that no matter what, it’s going to need to be amended.

Now if [President Trump] tries to power-amend the thing to really crack down on the borders, that’s the only thing I see really hurting us in any shape or form. But I really think he’s going to have his hands full with everything else going on in the world. The only thing I see getting tougher is getting trucks across the southern border.