MamaMia looking to take business to the next level
by John Groh | April 15, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- Although MamaMia Produce has been in business
for seven years, it is a fresh face to many in the industry. But with a new
focus on marketing, the firm is looking to become a household name before
MamaMia started as an offshoot to Rossman Farms, a longtime wholesale and
retail institution in Brooklyn, NY. While Rossman Farms remains in the Sunset
Park neighborhood of New York's largest borough, the owners moved the
MamaMia division across the Hudson River to this community best known as
being home to Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
Julio Garcia, director of sales and product development, and a veteran of the
New York produce scene, joined MamaMia at the beginning of the year and
has been charged with increasing the company's profile and getting its
products on more retailers' shelves.
Mr. Garcia brings a contagious enthusiasm to MamaMia, garnered from his
many years in the New York trade. As a young child, he spent a significant
amount of time at Julio Garcia Produce, his father's business that specialized
in tropical produce and was located on the Bronx Terminal Market. Most
recently, he owned and operated Associated Produce in the Bronx, NY, before
selling to his business partner late last year.
While looking for a new opportunity, he happened upon MamaMia and
immediately felt that it was a good match for both him and the company.
"They were looking for someone who could bring them to the next level, and I
was looking for someplace that needed help with its marketing. It was really a
perfect situation for both sides. I see a big future here at MamaMia."
Mini Persian cucumbers and cocktail tomatoes on-the-vine are the two main
items distributed by MamaMia, which sources product from 25 greenhouses
in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, according to Mr. Garcia. This
represents a marked increase over the four greenhouses it used when it
opened for business seven years ago.
Other products handled by MamaMia are grey squash, peppers, avocados and
a host of seasonal and specialty items, such as papaya, mini seedless
watermelon, melons, yellow cherry tomatoes, red hot finger peppers, open-
field peppers and Cubanelle peppers.
MamaMia uses its namesake "MamaMia" brand for the premium-quality items
it packs. Product that does not meet its top grade standard is packed in a
second label, "La Vita." But whether packed in the "MamaMia" brand or the
"La Vita" brand, product will not get packed at all if it does not have excellent
"Product has to taste great and it has to be affordable," said Mr. Garcia. "We
won't pack anything that doesn't taste great."
So far, retailers largely have been receptive when Mr. Garcia and Daniel
Mosquera, sales and purchasing coordinator, have come knocking. With a
directive from company owners to add two retail accounts this year, Mr.
Garcia said that he and Mr. Mosquera have already signed on six in the first
three months alone.
"I would consider myself a good salesman, and Danny is too, but it's really
the products that sell themselves," said Mr. Garcia. "Once these [retailers]
taste them, they are sold."
Despite a desire to try for more, Mr. Garcia said that MamaMia would step
back and concentrate on servicing those accounts. "You don't want to grow
too big too fast," he said.
Instead, the focus will shift to looking for new products for the company to
handle. Recently, MamaMia added a Mexican Hass avocado program to
accompany its greenskin avocado line. Mr. Garcia also is eyeing a New Jersey
deal that would feature blueberries and heirloom Beefsteak tomatoes, and he
has been in contact with several prospective growers in the Vineland, NJ,
area, who are open to the idea of selling direct to MamaMia.
Developing new packages is another way that MamaMia is hoping to stand
out. On the drawing board is a picnic basket-style container for blueberries,
which would join an innovative handbag line that places product in pouches
designed to look like handbags.
Regarding the "MamaMia" brand, Mr. Garcia said that it has broad appeal.
"When you hear the name 'MamaMia,' you might immediately think Italian,
but it also has Latino overtones, and I think there is great potential for
marketing tropical items under that brand. I think we will do very well in
reaching Latino consumers. With Latinos expected to make up 25 percent of
the U.S. population [by 2050], I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't reach out
Currently, the focus for MamaMia is the East Coast of the United States. "We
are concentrating on controlling Maine to Miami," said Mr. Garcia. "But next
year, I would like to start looking for a distribution center out on the West
Coast, maybe around Fresno, and start opening up the West Coast market."