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Despite differences, many Midwest markets see similar trends

Don’t be fooled into thinking every Heartland market is created equal.

There’s a sharp divide in how these metro areas grew, by population over the last several years. St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Milwaukee all saw growth around 1 percent or less, according to the U.S. Census. Minneapolis and Indianapolis weighed in with 3 percent growth, and Des Moines/West Des Moines increased more than 5 percent, now exceeding 600,000 residents.

Despite the differences in population growth, the receivers we talked with all ticked off similar trends: more fresh-cut or grab-and-go items, including meal kits; growth in regional/local produce and organics; and more greenhouse input and imports to support steady supply for year-round consumption. There is also an uptick in demand for exotics, especially in the higher-income Minneapolis/St. Paul market.

“This area not only is a high-income area, it’s becoming more renowned as a foodie area,” John Carkoski, COO of J&J Distributing Company, St. Paul, MN, says. J&J Distributing’s offices are less than a mile from the state capitol in downtown St. Paul, where he says there are many restaurants with organic and healthy-for-you themed menus popping up.

Meal kits seem to be everywhere, surging in popularity, but retailers are expanding their own prepared options. “If consumers really don’t want to ‘cook’ with a kit, they can buy from a number of food bars within stores, with offerings well beyond soup and salad,” says Sam Maglio, Jr., president of the Maglio Companies, Milwaukee, WI. “Value-added is the name of the game to provide those portions either for kits or deli departments.”

Receivers here are staying on top of the game, constantly sorting out customer preferences.  Brendan Comito, COO at Capital City Fruit Company Inc., West Des Moines, IA, says has noticed growth in several specialty tomato category items, possibly due to the way these items are packaged.

“Consumers appear to prefer bagged packs over tray packs, but we’re not sure if that’s a long-term trend or a blip,” he says.


This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.


Matt Ernst writes about farm-related topics and is based near St. Louis, Missouri.