As Florida supermarkets struggle to keep fresh produce on the shelves in the midst of the COVID-19 corona virus pandemic, Mr Greens Produce has stepped up to the plate to assist both large chain and independent grocers with needed commodities.
Historically, Mr Greens has been a leading supplier of produce to the foodservice channel, but in recent weeks that business has largely dried up as mandates forced the majority of Florida’s restaurants, hotels, resorts and country clubs to temporarily close.
“We are trying to transition as quickly as possible from foodservice,” Nick Politis, CEO of Miami-based Mr Greens Produce told The Produce News. “We’ve always done some wholesale and retail, but our biggest constraint in the past has been the lack of room.”
Expanding to service the retail trade has been on Mr Greens’ radar for some time, but was limited do to a lack of slots in its current warehouse. That is why the company plans on moving its Miami warehouse to a much larger facility later this summer.
“That additional space would have allowed us to move into more retail and stock more product tailored to retail, including prepackaged items and smaller quantities that are more appropriate for the retail channel,” Politis said, noting that growers such as B&W Quality Growers, have introduced smaller sizes of items like arugula and baby lettuces for the supermarket channel. “That is the sort of thing we are looking to bring onboard, as opposed to just foodservice size packaging, like a 2 X 1.5 case of arugula. A typical household can’t use that quantity,” he noted.
“Our constraint, up until our new building is ready, was not having the space, but now with foodservice virtually gone except for some takeout, we have freed up the warehouse space and some slots so we can now start looking to bring in some retail items before our move to our new facility,” Politis said.
Most of Florida’s big chains do their own buying, but the current rush on stores has sparked shortages and out-of-stocks. “The stores are coming to us if they have shorts. We’re on their radar now and have been approved for specific regions of the state. That’s a start,” Politis said. “We’re helping the bigger stores fill the gaps in their supply chain. At the same time, we’ve been aggressively trying to fill some of the small and medium size retailers with product that they need.”
During the crisis, Mr Greens is continuing its work of donating product to Feeding South Florida, the Pembroke Park-based food bank that services the greater Miami area.
“We want to make sure that people are still getting fed,” Politis said. “We’ve also been putting gift packages together for our employees to make sure that they have milk, eggs, produce and the basics because we want our employees to make sure their fridges are stocked during this time,” he said, adding that Mr Greens has also been donating product to local nursing homes and other care facilities.
Earlier this year Mr Greens expanded into Texas with the purchase of Cawoods Produce in Austin.
“Cawoods gives us a foothold in Texas. They are a great firm, kind of similar to Mr Greens in that they serve the higher end of the market with restaurants, hotels and similar clientele. That acquisition will help springboard other acquisition opportunities in Texas,” Politis said.