CHELSEA, Mass. — A big change in the organic marketplace in Boston: the number of retailers that now bypass wholesalers altogether, said Leonard Dankner, organic specialist for Gregg Dziama Inc.

“Fifteen years ago, I was helping supermarkets get (organics programs) started, but now they do hardly anything with us,” he said. “More companies are going direct.”

Cost blocks organics in Boston
                                                                              Andy Nelson



Growth of the organic category won't keep up the fast pace of recent years, says Leonard Dankner, organic specialist for Gregg Dziama Inc., Chelsea, Mass., but it will perform well. Tomatoes are among the best-selling organicitmes for Dziama Inc., he says.

Carrots, tomatoes and Tuscan cabbage are among the good organic movers for Dziama, Dankner said.

Many items, such as black kale, are sold organic — but only because that’s the only form customers can find them in, he said.

“It’s organic, but people don’t ask for it organic,” he said.

As the organic category grows, sheer math suggests it’s not going to expand at the same percentage rates, Dankner said. But that doesn’t mean the category’s future doesn’t look bright.

Mutual Produce Inc. sells organic strawberries, raspberries, grapes and other fruit, said Richie Travers, partner.

But it’s not a big part of the company’s business, and Travers doesn’t see it being so anytime soon. The same is likely true of the industry as a whole.

“As much as people say it’s growing, it’s still a small percentage of the amount that’s moved,” he said.

An organics program is not likely in the offing for the John Cerasuolo Co. Inc., said Ken Cavallaro, treasurer.

Given the cost and risk, the potential benefits of organics are not enough to take a chance on them, Cavallaro said.

“If people ask for it, we’ll do it, but we do very little,” he said. “It’s very, very difficult to get real good stuff. It’s expensive, and if it’s not right, you got nowhere to go with it.”

If organics plays a role in the future plans of The Alphas Co., it’s definitely not the near future, said Yanni Alphas, president and chief executive officer.

“If things get better, maybe, but not right now,” he said.

It’s doubtful Lisitano Produce Inc. will make much of a foray into organics, said Frank Lisitano, president.

And it’s certain it won’t do anything anytime soon, with the economy the way it is.

“It’s too risky to do right now,” he said.

The typical customer at the New England Produce Center doesn’t want to pay extra for organic, said Maurice Crafts, a salesman for Coosemans Boston Inc.

“We do some but it’s not really a big deal for us, especially on the terminal market, where everyone’s so price-sensitive,” he said.