Evergreen International increases fruit offerings

Since being put in charge of Evergreen International’s fruit operations in late 2009, Patrick Pak says he’s rapidly expanded what was previously a nonexistent business for his company, which operates out of the Chicago International Produce Terminal.

Pak expanded into several varieties popular with Asians, including fuji apples, Korean pears and yali pears from China. Evergreen’s offerings are not the “typical mainstream” fruit, he said.

“When most people think of an apple, they think of a red delicious or a golden delicious,” Pak said in November. “But I bring in different sizes and varieties,” such as the fujis, he said. “Quite simply, that’s what the Asian people really enjoy.”

Pak, an assistant sales manager, also oversees Evergreen’s Mexican produce and its mushrooms. Evergreen also sells berries and a full line of citrus.

Michael J. Navilio & Son adds to sales desk

In March, Sean McLaughlin, was named a salesman with Michael J. Navilio, a wholesaler based at the Chicago International Produce Market.

McLaughlin works in Navilio’s specialty vegetables department, which sells baby versions of lettuce, spinach and other products. He’s also in charge of cooler supervision and incoming shipments.

Previously, McLaughlin worked at Midwest Foods and Coosemans Chicago Inc. He said he’s been in the industry for more than a decade.

Strack and Van Til finds success with apple

Earlier this year, independent grocer Strack and Van Til introduced aurora apples from Washington, said Mark Wise, director of produce for the company, which has 31 stores in the Chicago area.

The aurora apple is “very sweet,” similar to yellow-sweet gala varieties, and looks like a golden delicious, Wise said.

Like Ambrosia and Honeycrisp varieties, the aurora, at about $2 a pound, is also more expensive than “staple” apples, Wise said. The staple apples range from 99 cents to $1.75 a pound.
Wise said the aurora has received a favorable reception at his stores.

“Some of our (markets) can handle higher-priced apples,” he said. “We’re getting repeat sales.”

Strube Celery returns to Mexican market

Strube Celery and Vegetable Co. restarted its Mexican department earlier this year to serve the growing Hispanic market in the Chicago area, said TJ Fleming, vice president of vegetables.

The company had been out of that market for a couple years.

Products Strube is offering include avocados, cilantro and jalapeno peppers, Fleming said.

Business for the new department so far is “so-so, up and down a little bit,” reflecting produce sales trends generally, Fleming said. “There’s a lot of competition in that (Hispanic) area. That’s where the population growth is.”

In December 2009, Dave Watson, previously Strube’s president and chief operating officer, left the company to take a job at the Arlington Heights, Ill., office of Del Monte Fresh Produce NA, Coral Gables, Fla.

Target brings fresh food to northern Chicago store

In July, Minneapolis-based Target opened a store in Wilson Yards/Uptown, a neighborhood in northern Chicago that’s had increasing development in recent years. As with other recent Target store openings or renovations in the area, the store includes a fresh food department.

Target representatives recently visited the Chicago International Produce Market looking for fresh produce suppliers, sources at the market said. A Target spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a message.

Earlier this year, Target said it will expand further into fresh produce and other groceries, with plans to add PFresh food departments to about half of its U.S. stores by the end of next year.

The company expects to have PFresh departments in about 850 stores by the end of 2011.

While traditional Target locations carry no perishable items, the PFresh stores sell fresh produce, including bananas, seasonal fruit, berries, bagged salads and baby carrots.

Target operates about 70 stores in Chicago and surrounding suburbs.