For the most part, organic produce isn’t a big seller for distributors on the Atlanta market.

Sales of specialties, on the other hand, remain strong.

As budgets tighten, one would think peoples’ tastes would change and customers would reduce orders. Despite challenging economic conditions, specialty produce sales haven’t declined, distributors reported.

Brian Young, general manager of Coosemans Atlanta Inc., said business has remained consistent.

“Fortunately for us, we haven’t seen any real drop in the specialties business,” he said.

“With the exception of a couple of points here and there, we have not seen any significant drop or decline in sales of specialty items.”

Though the specialties purveyor may not be selling as many cartons of passion fruit or some of what he calls oddball and high-priced items, Young said Coosemans is moving the same amount of kiwifruit, spring mix, french beans, baby lettuces and asparagus.

He said the consistent sales of specialties might be from consumers who value the health benefits of those products rather over saving money on lower-priced items.

Specialties

Young said specialties volume has remained consistent.

Specialties sales depend on the customer and its clientele, said Diana Earwood, vice president of Sutherland’s Foodservice Inc., Atlanta.

“People that dine in high-end restaurants may continue to dine in those places,” she said. “Everyone has tightened their belts some, but many specialties are still flowing.”

Sutherland’s, a broadline foodservice distributor, receives requests for and sources specialty items such as baby gem lettuce, Belgian endive and Japanese eggplant.

A member of the Frosty Acres broadline buying group, Sutherland’s receives many gourmet specialties overnight through Frosty Acres’ RP Gourmet.

Organic sales

Dee Dee Digby, president of Destiny Organics, Forest Park, during a Jan. 8 session at the 2010 Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Ga., described what her operation wants in organic produce from local growers.

“We have lots of locally produced natural and certified organic products in Georgia that we like to sell,” she said.

“With our diverse customer base, we are able to sell products into the foodservice chain that may not be of high enough quality acceptable to the retailers.”

Digby said Destiny continually looks for new items to increase its scope of offerings.

Destiny distributes to large and small supermarket chains in a six-state region.

Howard Mundt, president of Harvest Brokerage, Atlanta, said he doesn’t see much of a future for organically grown produce in the Atlanta area.

“I think it’s a dying thing,” he said. “People are now realizing there’s not much difference between it and regular produce.”

Coosemans Atlanta Inc. doesn’t receive many requests for organic produce, said Brian Young, general manager.