In Florida, a state dominated by older adults enjoying their retirement, opportunities seem ripe for increasing produce consumption.

For Walter Vazquez Jr., chief executive officer of Miami-based Freedom Fresh LLC, increasing consumption is a matter of economics.

Any increased sales are dependent on shoppers’ pocketbooks, he said.

“There’s definitely a desire to eat healthier,” Vazquez said. “There’s a lot more interest in increasing fresh produce usage and a lot of interest in the local movement. But once again, it comes down to economics and how they can stretch their budgets and what they can afford. That’s always the challenge.”

Jack Scalisi, president of Jack Scalisi Wholesale Fruit & Produce, in West Palm Beach, Fla., said the foodservice distributor has experienced increased demand.

“I see consumption continuing to build,” he said. “Whether it’s a large or small account, the line items have to be up in the last 10 years by at least 20%. And that’s with all the different items.”

Bruce Fishbein, a partner with The Produce Connection Inc., in Miami, sees increased consumption in the south Florida restaurants he patronizes.

“Many restaurants are going very heavy to vegetables,” he said. “A lot of companies out there are going into fresh grown and want to promote where it’s grown. They want to make sure it’s the product they want.”

A number of factors, including increased publicity about the health benefits of fresh produce, are helping increase consumption, said Matt Wasson, vice president and owner and operator of The Garden Wholesale Produce Inc., in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I would like to think that we’re seeing a trend in increasing consumption, especially with all the media coverage,” he said. “Sustainability, local grown and GMOs have all helped. With the increasing education of people wanting to know where their food comes from, how it’s grown and handled vs. processed foods in general, hopefully, people will be trending more toward fresh fruits and vegetables.”

The desire to live healthily is helping spur consumption gains, distributors say.

“I see more people on health kicks,” said Louis Garcia Jr., president of Crews & Garcia Inc., in Tampa, Fla. “I have noticed more people getting back into health and are trying to eat better.”