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The Fresh Wave LLC is currently undergoing a major expansion program that is increasing the number of sources and inventories it maintains, Tommy Consalo, vice president of the Vineland, NJ-based company told The Produce News.

“We have outstanding new partnerships,” said Mr. Consalo. “We are expanding in all growing areas in New Jersey, as well as throughout the East Coast. This year we doubled our blueberry production areas, and we plan to increase another 50 to 100 percent in the coming year. One deal is set in stone and we’re in negotiations with another.”

TheFreshWave3893Tommy Consalo, vice president of The Fresh Wave LLC in Vineland, NJ.Steven Hall, The Fresh Wave’s director of grower relations, has played a major role in the company’s expansion initiative. He joined the company last spring. Mr. Hall has been in the produce business his entire career. He came to The Fresh Wave from Carolina Blueberry Cooperative, where he was the general manager.

“Steven has been a great asset to us already,” said Mr. Consalo. “He has a strong network with both offshore and domestic suppliers, and we’re very happy to have him on board.”

The Vineland area of New Jersey was in a perfect place during the perfect storm, Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Consalo said most people there dodged a big bullet.

“The eye of the storm passed right over us,” he said. “The front of the storm brought some wind and rain, and the back winds and rain never whipped back like we expected. We lost power for only a matter of hours at both our facility and our farms. We feel really fortunate.”

The Fresh Wave turned its good fortune into a way to help people who weren’t as lucky and suffered from power outages and damaged or destroyed homes. Following the storm it quickly went to work putting donations together.

“We held a clothing drive, put cases of water together, collected boots, blankets and everything else we felt that people would benefit from,” said Mr. Consalo. “We are in the perishable business, so we were trying to be practical in collecting what people without power needed the most, and they need to stay warm as well as being fed. It was great to see so many people come together to help with our efforts.”

Although The Fresh Wave will not be exhibiting at the New York Produce Show in December, Mr. Consalo and others from the company will be in attendance to meet with colleagues and customers.

“We will be talking up all of our new endeavors,” he said. “This show will be a good opportunity for us to really hone in on our core competencies in possible preparation to exhibit next year.

“We feel that the timing, now in December, of the New York Produce Show is good,” continued Mr. Consalo. “It gives people time to let the dust settle from” the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit. “For us, it’s particularly good because when the PMA [show] is in the West, we like to use the opportunity to visit with some of our growing operations in California. The extra time between shows works best for us.”

He said that the demand for blueberries just “grows and grows.”

“The growth rate has been absolutely staggering,” Mr. Consalo said. “You can hardly pick up a magazine or watch a cooking show without hearing about the nutritional benefits of blueberries. We are expanding our production areas on blues in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and we have increased our imports tremendously. Our refrigerators are kept full year round.”

In mid-November, The Fresh Wave was bringing blueberries in from Argentina, and Chile was just starting to rev up its export program. The company also handles clementines from Spain and limes and some blackberries from Mexico.

About 90 percent of The Fresh Wave’s customers are retailers, and the remainder are foodservice operators.

“We feel it is very important to be well-rounded in both our sourcing and where we place product,” said Mr. Consalo. “As this growth initiative evolves for us, extensive plans to expand our facilities are also on the horizon.”