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Launched in August with the idea to better facilitate purchasing transactions between produce buyers and sellers, freshproducelocator.com has experienced a recent surge in popularity, according to its developer.

The site has added numerous features and now lists 37 buyer members. Buyers on the site include some of the very large in the industry, such as Indianapolis Fruit Co., Pro-Act, Ben E. Keith, Save Mart Supermarkets, Stater Bros. and Supervalu.

Among the features on the site are the ability to hone in on "hot deals" listed by suppliers, the ability to search for product using numerous criteria, an area for organic product, a “services” area that has links to transportation and equipment providers, and links to news stories from The Produce News.

Site developer David Castillo said that he conceived the site after speaking with produce buyers and sellers and discussing the pros and cons of how business is currently conducted.

“Instead of a company having an individual pound the phones all day looking for the best deal, they can go on to our site and get a list of who has what and at what price,” said Mr. Castillo. “And they can search for product by shipping location, variety, size, weight, pack size or a number of other criteria. Also, suppliers are able to list product as a 'hot deal' on the site, which attracts the attention of the buyers.”

Membership is free to buyers, and a current introductory offer allows sellers to join for a flat fee of $1,999 per year, or about $166 per month, said Mr. Castillo.

“Some of the suppliers actually told me I was too low [in price],” he said. “They can easily waste $4,000 or $5,000 worth of product that they can’t sell, and this will enable them to move the product they are long on.”

Mr. Castillo also stressed that the site is secure, meaning that only buyers can view the price lists posted by sellers. This eliminates the worry that sellers will use the site to undercut price or manipulate the market. The site does not offer on-line transactions; rather it provide buyers with a direct link to a seller’s sales team.

“And we only accept members that are rated highly by one of the financial reporting agencies, like the Blue Book,” he said. “I verify that as well as the status of a company as being a buyer or seller.”

Mr. Castillo said that while promotions have thus far been limited to word of mouth and personal contact, he is setting up accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to further promote the service to the industry.