Produce distributors in the Pacific Northwest report a slight increase in sales activity in the retail sector.


“The Northwest has experienced the same trends as the rest of the country during the recession,” said John Janker, merchandising manager for Seattle-based wholesale distributor Charlie’s Produce.


“With the onset of the first quarter of 2010, we have seen a marginal rebound in sales in the Northwest.”


He said retail is experiencing a slow rebound from the recession.


“Many of retailers are experiencing greater competition for the same customers and less shopping frequency,” he said.


Retail actually has been a salvation for some companies, including Clackamas, Ore.-based Botsford & Goodfellow Inc., according to manager Ron Escene.


“We’ve been fortunate with retail,” he said. “We’re not seeing any records, but we’re holding our own. If you can stay the same during this time, it’s a miracle.


“I know a lot of guys in construction that are 20% of what they used to be.”


Retailers are running more produce advertisements, Escene said.


“We do a lot of ads with them. We write ads for them,” he said.


Some promotional alleys have been closed for the company, however, he added.


“We don’t do almost any in-store demos anymore,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they’re not doing them — just not with our product.”


One successful venue is the fresh-cut category, Escene said.


“A bit more of the business these days has gone to chopping the product,” he said.


“We do a ton of chopped stuff for retail, and they’re putting it in those fruit trays.”


Retailers are working ads and also demos, said Dale Hayton, sales manager for Valley Pride Sales, Mount Vernon, Wash.


“I don’t see the point-of-sale-type materials increasing, but in-store demos and ads are still very prevalent,” he said.


He said competition for shelf space is as fierce as ever.


“The retailers are all fighting for customers, as well,” he said. “It’s a very competitive atmosphere for everybody right at the moment.”


Organic supplier CF Fresh, Sedro-Woolley, Wash., is seeing more retail demand in that category, said Matt Roberts, sales director.


“I think you see a lot of promotions around here on organics,” he said.


“The Krogers, Raleys and Safeways are taking organics and running with them. It’s becoming a big part of the mix. QFC (Quality Food Centers) is adding organic items. Something’s obviously working for them. Right now, we’ll be getting into more local produce, and I’m sure they’ll be getting behind them.”


Natural food retail chains Whole Foods and New Seasons Markets also are aggressively promoting organics, which have developed a sizable following in the Northwest, said Maureen Royal, who handles sales for Portland, Ore.-based Bridges Produce.


“They’re doing lots of live demos and chefs cooking right on the floor,” she said.


“There are more of the growers going in over a weekend, perhaps to sit at a table and answer questions and provide information about organics. That has brought a bigger awareness.”


Many stores have poster boards with information about local growers, Royal said.