DETROIT — R.A.M. Produce Distributors LLC has launched a line of organic produce under its own brand, "Organic Girl." The firm is developing the line slowly, employing a strategy of crawling before walking.
“We just started it, so we are in the crawl stage before we walk,” Mike Badalament, sales representative, told The Produce News in early January. “Organics are not for everyone because of the price. It is a huge commitment [to develop an organic line], but we see growth [and potential] there. We have been handling it the right way, which has been very conservatively.”
R.A.M. launched its “Organic Girl” brand under which it markets its organic products in the late summer and early fall of 2010. At present, the line is dominated by Romaine lettuce, salads, spring mix and other primarily leafy items.
The expansion into organics is not the only area in which R.A.M. is growing; facility additions and upgrades have also been a priority at the company. “Over the past couple of years, we have done a lot at the” facility R.A.M. maintains about two miles from the Detroit Produce Terminal where it sorts, repacks and stores product in addition to maintaining office facilities, Mr. Badalament said. But R.A.M. is also on the Detroit Produce Terminal, where Mike Bommarito, company owner, has recently focused expansion and improvement efforts.
“On the terminal, we were able to build out” the structure in 2010 rather than acquiring space from other market tenants. In addition to the newly built space, R.A.M. upgraded its refrigeration equipment, lighting and other utilities at the terminal. The expansion at the terminal added nearly 10,000 square feet to R.A.M.'s operations, which augment its 42,000 square-foot off-site facility.
Looking back at 2010, Mr. Badalament said, “It was good, Obviously a great concern to everyone was the economy in Michigan — and we are starting to see a glimmer of hope there — but R.A.M. had a very good year. And we don’t take that for granted. We work for it, we really do.”
The firm’s customer base has remained steady, split relatively evenly between retail customers and foodservice business (which is not handled directly but rather through intermediary wholesalers that cater to the segment). “We deal with a very good customer base here,” Mr. Badalament said. “They are very sagacious. The terminal is a good place to buy, and they keep us on our toes. We have to be able to move quickly with the times.”