Chicago adjust to shifting consumer demand

Consumer trends continue to affect demand for commodities, and these shifts are having an impact on Chicago International Produce Market (CIPM) merchants.

“With continuing trends in healthy eating, fresh produce is still leading the charge,” said Brian Holzkopf, senior procurement specialist for Ruby Robinson Company, Inc., BB #:102013 and he regards the CIPM as an accurate barometer of consumer and industry trends.

“The CIPM is still a great place to gather information about what the industry is doing, from mom-and-pop restaurants, regional chain stores, meal subscription companies, as well as what any growing regions are doing at any point in time,” Holzkopf said. “It’s also a great place to be able to view new items, imports, and specialty items that are not always available to smaller markets.”

Vince Gregosanc Jr., buyer at Battaglia Distributing Company, Inc., BB #:125850 said his company has seen a surge in demand for the very items they’re having a difficult time sourcing.

A case in point was mushrooms, which experienced very tight supply in December, near the holidays, and during cold weather. Another was tomatoes, due to weather events.

While Ruby Robinson’s top commodities are still potatoes and onions, Holzkopf said the company is expanding its product line with new items based on customer demand.

“The company is in an exciting growth phase,” he said, and it is “bringing on more and more produce experts to help position us as a full-line supplier of all commodities.”

Some of these commodities used to be highly seasonal. “Items that used to be available only during certain times of the year are now a must-have in stock every day,” said Gregosanc. He points to watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe as examples. “Now that most stores have a cut-fruit program in their everyday sets, these items need to be in stock year-round.”

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