Business is booming for Indianapolis produce as the market benefits from a recovering economy. Matthew Caito, executive vice president for Caito Foods Service Inc., Indianapolis, noted the increase in the city’s retail construction.

“There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of new players.” Caito said. “The economy is getting better, but there’s also lots of pent up demand for new product and new stores.”

Large, national chains like Kroger and Wal-Mart continue to expand into the area, but for many in Indianapolis produce, specialty stores and farmers markets are seeing the most growth.

“It seems like specialty markets are thriving in town,” said Rick Harsnett, vice president of sales in the Indianapolis office for Tom Lange Co., Springfield, Ill. He mentioned the recent opening of two new Fresh Thyme stores in the area, a retailer that focuses on organic offerings.

For some, the draw of stores like Fresh Thyme, Whole Foods and others is the convenience and ease of shopping that these stores provide.

“People are mobile nowadays, and these stores put dinners together, they have a great carry-out situation, they have a high-end product and a great range of organic,” Harsnett said. “It’s pretty much a one-stop shop for produce, cheese, meat and high-end stuff.”

For others, specialty stores provide a closer link to local markets than large, national chains. “Many consumers want to keep the money they spend within their community,” said Dan Corsaro, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Indianapolis Fruit Co., Indianapolis. “And these specialty stores are like a retail version of a farmers market. They try to model their store like a farmers market, so you’ll see wicker baskets, wooden crates — it’s about building an atmosphere in the store, replicating the environment of a local market.”

Nevertheless, traditional grocers have greatly increased their produce selection, providing a new competitive edge against specialty stores.

“Grocery stores in general are doing very good, but grocery stores are doing really well with produce,” said Michael Gillum, president and owner, MGR Premier Produce Co. of Indianapolis. “You go into a grocery store now, and they all have a fantastic produce department compared to 10 or 20 years ago — lots of options at low prices.”

Increasing options present consumers with a wide array of produce offerings at various locations and price points. Although increased competition typically poses a problem for established companies, all are enjoying the new, robust growth in Indianapolis.

“Consumers are getting smarter, shopping smarter,” Caito said. “Anytime there’s vitality in retail, that’s good for a city.”