Price Chopper Supermarkets said that it plans to increase its purchase of locally grown produce by 25 percent.
The supermarket chain, owned by Rotterdam-based Golub Corp., held the company’s second annual local growers lunch on Tuesday at Mallozzi’s Restaurant. About 50 farmers, mostly from New York state, attended the event.
Keith Frosceno, Price Chopper’s vice president of produce merchandising, said Price Chopper has made it a priority over the past several years to establish a link between local farmers and produce sold at its supermarkets because “buying local” has proven to be powerful marketing brand.
“It’s very difficult when you’re trading among the six states [we operate within] to distribute local produce. We have a network of farmers now, store by store, region by region,” Frosceno said. “The customers in the local areas we trade in are looking for that product. They want to know what they are buying [comes from a farm] they recognize.”
Much of Price Chopper’s produce comes from Railex, a grocery shipper, located within the Rotterdam Industrial Park. Railex carries tons of produce grown on the West Coast each week to Northeast supermarket chains such as Price Chopper, Sysco Foods, U.S. Food Services, Stop N’ Shop and Wal-Mart.
Frosceno said the huge shipments of produce make it cheaper to buy from Railex even with transportation costs factored in, but Price Chopper has seen that cost is not the only factor consumers consider when buying produce.
“The flavor of [local grown] is generally much better because it’s quicker from the orchard or the vine to the consumer,” he said.
Farmer Jim Abbruzzese, of Altamont Orchards, attended the event and said the proliferation of farmers markets in the Capital Region might be biting into Price Chopper’s business.
“I think Price Chopper is trying to capture some of that business back to their stores,” he said.
Price Chopper President Neil Golub spoke at Tuesday’s lunch and emphasized the importance of establishing food safety standards. He said any incident of food contamination can cause a panic in consumers that puts farmers and supermarkets out of business. Price Chopper encourages all of its food producers to adhere to the Safe Quality Food standards of the Food Marketing Institute. SQF safety certification is preferred by Price Chopper because it has standards that can be applied to many different types of food, not just produce, officials said.
“We’re going to try to get [SQF instructors] here so that people don’t have to travel long distances to get that training and education,” Golub told the farmers.
More from The Daily Gazette: