Sonny Boy Produce, formerly headquartered in Landisville, NJ, moved during the winter and is now working out of Safeway Fresh Foods in Vineland, NJ, according to Thomas Consalo, president of the company.
“The move over the off-season has aligned us with new partnerships and strengthens our position for the upcoming local season and beyond,” said Consalo. “It will enable us to operate with the highest food-safety standards while maintaining a strong workforce to scale up as we grow over time.”
Other key members of the firm, which opened its doors in September 2018, include Albert Trionfo as general manager, Jen Riggio as office manager and Tom Parker as operations manager.
Asked about the start of the 2020 New Jersey produce season, Consalo told The Produce News Monday, May 4, “The winter was exceptionally mild, which led into some nice early first pick and winter over product.”
He continued, “We did have some early product that showed up due to some of the warmer weather we had earlier in the year, but then after that it kind of fell back into place, so to speak, to normal start dates.”
As of the first week in May, Sonny Boy Produce was handling “asparagus, parsleys, cilantro, dill, spinach, all the cooking greens. We’re just getting the first few days of lettuce and radish,” he said. “So far the quality has been excellent.”
Looking ahead toward the end of May, “We’re looking forward to really getting into volume with the line of lettuce. That’s something that I typically look forward to for our business,” he said. “And then to continue with the next line. We look forward to the cabbages and then the dry items thereafter, of course.”
Looking even farther ahead to the important New Jersey blueberry deal, Consalo offered, “If I had to guess, it looks right now to be right on schedule for mid-June.”
Asked how the COVID-19 situation has affected and will affect business, Consalo replied that the company is “of course adhering to the guidelines” relating to the virus.
“The hardest thing I think that we are going to be up against is forecasting. A big part of our business as a supplier to retailers is forecasting and [then] marketing accordingly to what we think the supply will reflect.”
He continued, “Forecasting is going to be our biggest hurdle to overcome. I think that will be the most trying part of this whole thing.”
The majority of Sonny Boy Produce’s customers are retailers and wholesalers in the Northeast, Middle Atlantic and Midwest as well as eastern Canada, he noted, but it does have some foodservice customers. “Although we don’t have a big part of our business geared toward foodservice,” he said, “just the absence of foodservice supplies will still affect demand at pricing.”
But like so many people around the country, the pandemic affects more than just dollars and cents.
As Consalo put it, “So far it is affecting our nerves more than anything else. It’s been more nerve wracking than anything. The worrying has been the biggest thing to overcome. Otherwise, business has been pretty good.”
Photo: Thomas Consalo, president of Sonny Boy Produce.