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Berry big business: S. Katzman Produce

One of the “newer” players in the berry industry is S. Katzman Produce, Inc., BB #:103742 a four generation-strong family business based at the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx, NY.

Although long-established as an importer and marketer for a wide range of produce, S. Katzman entered the berry market in 1995 and has experienced steady growth, according to company vice president Stefanie Katzman. The firm sources primarily from within the United States, complemented by supply from Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

Over last 15 years, Katzman says the introduction of new varieties that eat better, taste sweeter, and last longer have helped the company develop its berry business, building customer trust and strengthening relationships with growers.

“Over the years, we’ve definitely seen growth in the berry category overall,” she says. “You get that sweet flavor and that’s what customers want, and if everything is working out nice, you get year-round supply with great flavor.”

Blueberries are helping drive the surge in berry sales.

“Over the last few years, companies have come out with these jumbo blues, I’ve seen some of them bigger than a quarter sometimes, and they taste great too,” she says.

Of course, Katzman acknowledges the category is not without its problems, citing two of most familiar: labor and climate.

“Unpredictable weather is a big challenge for berries,” she points out. “It can’t be too hot or too cold, and of course rain also affects picking. Whereas other fruits and vegetables are stronger against the weather, I think it has the biggest impact on berries.”

This is not, however, to belittle the question of labor. “Across the board, I know labor is a problem,” she says.

“It might be more of an issue with berries than with other commodities because it requires so much more intensive labor, and therefore, not so many people might want to do it. But berries are also lighter than some other fruits, so there are advantages.”

Although the challenges are clear, opportunities remain to be grasped for growers, marketers, and retailers in the berry industry, adds Katzman, provided the focus remains not just on shelf life, but also on delivering the flavors consumers want.

This is a multi-part feature adapted from an article in the May/June 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints.