M is for Markets
The region’s wholesale markets are key to meeting demand, especially the larger terminals in Chicago and Detroit. “We provide coast-to-coast service, and we find our trucks going more into the New York and Chicago terminals than the other Midwest terminals,” says Jimmy DeMatteis, president of DMTB in Des Moines.
That doesn’t mean smaller terminals, like in St. Louis and Cleveland, are hurting for customers or supply. “We have trucks in or near every local terminal market,” observes Maglio. “We’re able to source as needed from these locations to fulfill customer requests in a different region. If romaine lettuce is in high demand in Minneapolis, we can buy from St. Louis and deliver the next day. It’s a service we offer to our client base.”
The St. Louis terminal includes more than 20 tenants, though some merchants have moved off the market into the suburbs to accommodate growth or capitalize on less expensive rates. Front Row Produce, a repacker supplying foodservice and retailers including Aldi, moved in 2014 to Over-land, a northwest suburb near the airport, off interstates 70 and 270. Last year, longtime St. Louis terminal tenant Old Tyme Produce moved to St. Charles, MO, the fast-growing suburb just across the Missouri River from St. Louis.
But don’t judge the region’s market based on the number of tenants at the terminal. “I think the whole St. Louis produce deal is in pretty darn good shape,” observes John Parr, managing member at Fresh Start Marketing, LLC, a St. Louis broker.
“St. Louis has a more diverse population than it used to, and younger people seem more in tune with fresh produce—and that all helps.” Growth in ethnic populations is pushing demand as well, according to Parr and other market observers. St. Louis is home to a large Bosnian population and, like other Midwest cities, has growing Latino and Asian populations too.
Most Midwest markets have seen tenants come and go or gained new owners, but remain reliable, busy hubs for area restaurants, retailers, and foodservice operators. The Northern Ohio Food Terminal at Woodland and Orange in Cleveland maintains a steady flow of trucks and shipments, while the Columbus terminal was purchased by Sanfillipo Produce Company, Inc. back in 2013.
C is for Crops
The Midwest is famous for “corn and beans”—field corn and soybeans, shipped out globally via a sophisticated transportation system. But the same roads (and some rails) also transport fresh produce to augment the region’s ever increasing demand for seasonal fruits and vegetables.