Through this year, Chicago-based Strube Celery & Vegetable Co. has
increased Hispanic produce sales.
Lisa Strube, the firm's director of finance and administration, told The Produce
News Aug. 12 that her company had a slow start in boosting Hispanic
produce sales in February 2010. In June, Strube Celery added a full-time,
Spanish-speaking salesperson, Gustavo Rosales, who understands the
Hispanic culture. This understanding, Ms. Strube said, is important for
educating mainstream retail customers and for relating to Hispanic
"We are definitely carrying more of that line now," Ms. Strube said. The
presence of Mr. Rosales “is allowing us to focus on Hispanic items.” Generally,
Strube Celery’s “foundation is small, independent grocery stores,” but beyond
that, the firm has increasingly added Hispanic stores to its customer mix.
“We are working with some of the larger retailers and independents and doing
some merchandising for them to build Hispanic departments” because non-
Hispanic population sectors increasingly enjoy fresh produce items coming
from the Hispanic culture, Ms. Strube said. In mainstream stores, produce
managers and thereby consumers are taught how to cut mangos and papayas
and how to prepare other Hispanic items.
She noted that Mr. Rosales literally and figuratively “speaks the same
language” as those involved with the Hispanic trade. In conversations with
Hispanic customers, “the language can be a true barrier,” she said. “To have
someone who can speak the language and understand customers can be very
For Hispanic items, “we are getting pretty good volume on full-case sales” of
items like avocados, tomatillos, jicama and Jalapeños. “We don’t do much
processed or value-added yet. The Hispanic market tends to like fresh. The
consumers want their hands on the Jalapeños.”
Ms. Strube said that her firm has also increased its emphasis on tomato
repacking and sales this year. That commodity enjoyed a very hot market early
Also in 2010, “The fruit department has been very strong. We are going into
the busy season, especially with local product.”
Ms. Strube said that the overall Chicago economy is improving, which is
reflected on the Chicago International Produce Market.
For Strube Celery, foodservice sales are “a small portion” of the firm’s total
business. “Our customers supply foodservice guys. We do a decent portion” of
sales to the foodservice trade, but “our strength is definitely on the retail
Ms. Strube concluded, “We are looking forward to finishing the year strong.
We are looking forward to a good second half here.”