(Dec. 7) Vista Food Exchange Inc., a meat, poultry and seafood distributor based on the Hunts Point Cooperative Market, New York, is branching into fresh produce with a national sales office in Seffner, Fla.

“They want to be a full-service company with dry goods, produce, everything,” said Michael Lacey, who is operating the produce sales office with Jimmy Ackbar. Both previously worked in sales and marketing at Coosemans Tampa Inc., Tampa, Fla.

“We’re coming on board to open up the produce division and start selling to the U.S. and Canada,” Lacey said.

Lacey said Vista has annual sales of $1.4 billion. The company distributes meat, poultry and seafood through centers in Missouri, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts and New York, according to Vista’s Web site.

Lacey said the produce division will lease cold storage facilities rather than ship produce directly from the company’s existing distribution centers, but he said Vista’s nationwide customer base will give the produce division a solid foundation.

“Vista already deals with every major U.S. retailer and has deals with Sysco, Performance Food Group and U.S. Foodservice for meat and poultry in the U.S. and Canada,” said Lacey, who was director of sales at Lithia, Fla.-based Pinecrest Farms Inc., for three years before joining Coosemans in 2002.

“There are programs with wholesalers, retail and foodservice companies for meat and poultry. We’re going to branch off that and grow our produce business,” Lacey said.