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Filling the Plates of the Eastern Seaboard

South Jersey local strengthens the market
MS_Eastern Seaboard

“It is no secret that 2017 was an outstanding year for New Jersey tree fruit, and we’re expecting another exceptional season in 2018,” surmises Beaver. The state produced a bumper crop last year with 48 million pounds of peaches, 8 million more than the previous year, moving it to the nation’s second highest producer behind only California.

Part of the state’s stellar success last year was due to weather woes in other traditionally high-yielding peach states. Von Rohr says sometimes it’s a challenge to keep the peaches moving, but with entire crops lost in Georgia and South Carolina freezes, New Jersey not only had a stunning season but was able to move quickly to fill supply gaps and secure premium pricing.

Last summer, Eastern Propak, LLC moved 650 boxes of peaches under the Jersey Fresh label, according to general manager Jeff Danner, who highlights the Gloria variety. In only its fourth year of packing this particular variety of peach commercially, Danner says Gloria has so far outdone itself as “the new kid on the block and has shown all the pluses—as far as great for eating and packing.”

In addition to skyrocketing demand for locally produced fruits and vegetables, Danner is also handling more imports, from countries near and far. “We’ve seen solid upward growth in terms of produce coming in from offshore,” he confirms, so much so that the company had run out of cooling and packing space and was forced to store product off site.

And while high demand is always a blessing, it does create a few hiccups. With clients growing their businesses over the past few years, Eastern Propak needed to broaden its own services.

The company responded by doubling capacity of its original warehouse. “It’s close to a 100-percent uptick for the company,” Danner says of the expansion, “and I see no qualms or issues in using it to its fullest.”

Ode to Organics
Market share for organics is still small and a niche compared to other regions, but its presence continues to inch upward year after year. For The Fresh Wave, 2018 will mark the first year the company will offer organic blueberries all year, due to higher demand. Consalo says there have been modest upticks in organic vegetables too, that “although small, [the segment] still grows annually.”

R&R Flaim has enthusiastically embraced the higher demand for organics, experiencing solid and steady growth of 15 to 17 percent over the past three years. In response, Ryan Flaim says the grower-shipper has acknowledged demand by increasing acreage and plantings of organic squash varieties as well as herbs.