EveryDay Fresh to expand imports

Wholesale distributor EveryDay Fresh Produce expects to begin importing persimmons from Spain to meet growing demand from Chicago’s ethnic markets, chief executive Steve Chmelovsky said in mid-November.

Persimmons are a staple for many Asian consumers, according to Chmelovsky.

EveryDay Fresh Produce, based at the Chicago International Produce Market, already buys persimmons from California, Israel and South Africa.

The company, one of the area’s top ethnic market suppliers, also recent added Yali pears from China to its offerings.

The Fresh Market opens fifth area store

In November, Greensboro, N.C.-based specialty grocer The Fresh Market added its fifth location to the Chicago region, a 22,300 square-foot store in the far-northwestern suburb of Crystal Lake, Ill.

The Fresh Market also has stores in affluent suburbs of Lake Forest and Wilmette.

The new store includes a “bountiful produce department” with more than 400 items and a large organic selection, the company said.

“We look forward to introducing the Fresh Market’s concept of quality perishables, excellent customer service and a unique atmosphere to an expanded customer base,” Craig Carlock, the company’s chief executive, said in a Nov. 10 statement announcing the Crystal Lake opening.

Most of the company’s 107 stores, which the company says provide an atmosphere “reminiscent of old-world European markets,” are in the Southeast.

Goodness Greeness sales rise in 2011

Recently added products for Chicago-based organic produce supplier Goodness Greeness include living Boston lettuce, president Bob Scaman said.

Also, Goodness Greeness’ packaged herb category has “really come on dramatically,” reflecting people cooking at home more often, Scaman said.

Overall, Goodness Greeness had “a pretty good year,” with sales up by “double-digits,” in percentage terms, from 2010, Scaman said.

Michael J. Navilio & Son expands local offerings

Distributor Michael J. Navilio & Son handled a lot more locally grown products from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin this year, according to Michael Ruffalo, a sales representative for the company.

Ruffalo defined local as a one-day shipment away, as opposed to the three to four days it takes to ship products from major growing regions such as California.

Limes from Mexico did well for Michael J. Navilio after the company connected with a good shipper earlier this year, Ruffalo said.

The company, based at the Chicago International Produce Market, also aims to increase sales of organic products and establish a good leafy item, he said.

Panama Banana Co. adds Hispanic line

Spurred by growth in ethnic markets, Panama Banana Co. will add a permanent representative from an outside supplier to provide a complete line of fresh Hispanic products, including serrano and jalapeno peppers and cilantro, according to Panama Banana sales representative Tom Durante.

The representative, Antonio Bustillo, works for another company, El Granjero, but will be based full-time at Panama Banana’s Chicago International Produce Market, Durante said.

The new representative will allow Panama Banana to bring in product “faster and fresher and always have a full line of product on hand,” he said.

Testa Produce hires sales, truck staff

As hotel and restaurant business improved, Testa Produce, one of the Chicago’s top foodservice distributors, hired about 20 people in sales, trucking and other areas in 2011, company president Peter Testa said in November. Testa has 185 employees.

Recent hires included warehouse manager Glendon Sutliff, who has been “essential to our move to more efficiently run” the facilities, Testa spokeswoman Angela Bader said in a November e-mail.

Testa also promoted Michael Hanser, with the company since 2001, to national accounts sales manager. Previously, he was an account executive.

Last spring, Testa opened a $20.5 million distribution center in an industrial zone on Chicago’s South Side. The new facility includes several “green” features designed to cut pollution and energy use, including a 5,000-gallon rainwater reclamation system, biodiesel refueling stations for trucks and a roof that’s partly-covered by heat-absorbing vegetation.

Over the summer, Testa began generating power from a 238-foot-tall wind turbine, and in the longer term hopes to switch its truck fleet to electric vehicles.

Wal-Mart Stores adds three inner-city outlets

The biggest U.S. food retailer ramped up its Chicago expansion with three smaller-format stores inside the city.

The new stores, two Express locations on the North and South Sides and a Neighborhood Market west of the downtown business district, all feature fresh produce.

Wal-Mart expects to add another six smaller stores at various locations in Chicago by spring 2013, along with a supercenter on the city’s south side. As of November, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company had 20 Chicago-area stores.

Wayne’s World opens office at market

Tomato specialist Wayne’s World opened an office at the Chicago International Produce Market in May, taking over a space previously occupied by Auster Co., which shut down.

Wayne’s World president Wayne Passoff said his company recently added strawberries.