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‘Local’ is the word at Dandrea Produce

There’s no place like close to home.

That is one of the key takeaways attendees will learn by stopping by Dandrea Produce at Booth No. 621 at the 20th annual Southern Exposure conference and expo being held March 7-9 at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL.

Headquartered in Vineland, NJ, Dandrea Produce’s roots run deep — 102 years to be exact.

old-school-logo-with-words “We’ve expanded over the years and are now gearing up for our spring, summer and fall, what we call our Local Program,” Steve Dandrea, vice president of sales at the fourth generation family-owned company, told The Produce News. “We have a consortium of 15 growers, including our own farm, enabling us to do a seamless transition of leaf lettuces, herbs, summer crops and all of the dry and wet vegs, all the way through from April until the fall.”

That is accomplished by working with strategically placed farmers in multiple states and rotating crops according to the local calendar.

“We’ll start in Virginia and Maryland and then work our way into New Jersey, Pennsylvania and then New York,” Dandrea said. “That will literally keep us as a local provider.”

Dandrea Produce itself controls over 2,500 acres in New Jersey, Florida and Mexico, allowing the company to plan competitively priced programs for the entire season with retailers of all sizes.

Dandrea Produce offers its customers more than 75 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, more than 50 of which are available year-round, including apples, asparagus, Swiss chard, peaches, nectarines, corn, daikon, parsnips, turnips, kale, peppers, grapes, tomatoes, lemons, limes, watercress, watermelon and zucchini. But the company, which services the East Coast, really shines on its Local Program.

“Being on the East Coast enables us to harvest, cool, ship and deliver within 24 hours,” Dandrea said.

“So our produce is really, really fresh! Fresh and local is the key,” he added.

The company’s “summer” items include its extensive line of lettuces, along with peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn and tomatoes. And retailers and foodservice professionals can expect Dandrea Produce to provide them with even more of that assortment this summer.

“We are doubling our plantings this year,” Dandrea said. “This is being done for two reasons. First, the need for local produce has exceeded the supply. The second reason, sadly, is that a lot of growers cannot maintain operations and so they are contracting.”

Unfortunately this problem is not limited to a high-tax state like New Jersey, where expensive real estate is often more valuable for development than farming, but has become a global issue, Dandrea said.

While the bulk of the business is still conventional, Dandrea Produce is branching out into the increasingly popular organic side of the business.

“We have incorporated an organic line with seasonal and contract pricing, featuring custom packing, that is harvested, cut, cooled and delivered in 24 hours,” Dandrea said.

Dandrea operates a 100,000-square-foot storage facility with total storage capacity for 3,500 pallets. It contains six refrigerated coolers with live temperature monitoring, an on-site forced air room and hydro-coolers.

Dandrea Produce also runs a 30,000-square-foot repack facility with multiple bagging lines, overwrap machines, a corn processing line, tray pack and flow pack machines.

In addition to its Dandrea label, specialized custom packs and private label packaging are available.