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Deep freeze begins to thaw.

Deep freeze begins to thaw

The below-freezing temperatures that hit Florida and Texas a few months ago resulted in some supply shortages and attendant price hikes for retailers and wholesalers. Companies were forced to deal with the economic consequences of the freeze by altering their buying, merchandising and marketing strategies. "We've been receiving more supplies, such as navel oranges and minneolas, from California," says Tony Misasi, senior vice president of perishables for the Grand Union Co., Wayne, N.J. "And we've also expanded our import line, receiving green beans from Spain and tomatoes from Israel."

Some crops were affected more severely than others, observers point out. For instance, Texas citrus was hit especially hard, resulting in shortages of oranges and orange juice. In Florida, however, growers were able to salvage much of their citrus, but tomatoes and other vegetables were in short supply.

From a marketing standpoint, Jack Lanners, director of fresh fruit and vegetables for Glen's Markets, Gaylord, Mich., says he believes most retailers have dealt with the freeze by going where the opportunities are. "For example," he says, "Washington apples have always been very promotable, and they always will be. And some good opportunities still exist in Florida. Florida's strawberries managed to escape the deep freeze and they're just fine. There are also some very promotable vegetable commodities, such as broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce."

To deal with shortages and below-normal product quality, Lanners opted for a different merchandising approach. "I cut back on my tomato displays," he says. "The quality just wasn't up to previous standards. As a matter of fact, I told my customers not to buy tomatoes. It's better to be up-front with them. They appreciate it too."

Keith Frosceno, produce merchandiser for Bozzuto's Inc., Cheshire, Conn., says the stores he supplies have been pushing cherry tomatoes and hydroponic tomatoes as alternatives to those grown in Florida. "Hydroponic tomatoes are averaging $3.19 per pound and Florida tomatoes are now approaching that price as a direct result of the freeze. The point is, hydroponic tomatoes are much better and customers seem to like them, and that's what they're buying."

Despite the problems associated with the freeze, most retailers and wholesalers are confident business will be back to normal soon. "We're all struggling," says Gary Gionette, director of produce for Super Valu, Eden Prairie, Minn., "but because everybody replanted at the same time, markets will come down by late March and early April." Tony Misasi says, "By late March, we'll begin to see more supplies and a subsequent reduction in cost and retail."

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Title Annotation:In the Trade; impact of Florida and Texas freeze on grocery products
Author:Petreycik, Richard M.
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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