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Procacci Bros. ‘Taste Like Summer’ winter program a huge success

People in the north needed a taste of summer during the past brutal winter, and Procacci Bros. in Philadelphia gave them just that with its “Taste Like Summer” campaign, which promoted “UglyRipe” heirloom tomatoes and “SantaSweets” grape tomatoes.

Kevin Delaney, director of corporate sustainability and productivity for the company, said the campaign ran from December through February.P1030430Kevin Delaney, director of corporate sustainability and productivity for Procacci Bros. at the company’s Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market location.

“These varieties are grown specifically for their high flavor,” said Delaney. “They are not the traditional retail tomatoes. We grow them year round with Procacci’s proprietary seed at our ‘SantaSweets’ farms.

Rick Feighery, vice president of sales for Procacci Bros., said the next major project for the company is its annual locally grown “Jersey Fresh” program.

“This campaign runs from July 4 through October or the first freeze comes in that stops movement,” said Feighery. “New Jersey growers will be harvesting from late June or early July. Procacci has retail support in the entire Northeast as well as deeper into the country.”

Last year it launched its “SantaSweets” and “UglyRipe” heirloom-type tomato plant program so retail customers could offer consumers the opportunity to grow the tomatoes in their own backyards. On April 17, Feighery said this season’s plant program was scheduled to start the following week.

“This is now a seasonal program that we’re looking to grow to year-round,” he explained. “We started in the Northeast and are now moving into the Mid Atlantic. Ultimately we’ll be moving farther south and west with the plant program.

“The response to the plants from retailers and consumers has been tremendous,” Feighery continued. “Word has spread and now people from all over the country are asking us where they can buy them.”

Procacci Bros. has a strong online retail store where it offers fruit baskets, candies, imported Italian chestnuts and other items. The “SantaSweets” and “UglyRipe” tomato plants are available on the company’s new rebranded website, www.buyfreshgifts.com, which was designed to be user friendly and to enable it to operate as an independent business.

The company is also engaging in some “Fair Trade Certified” products on its distribution side. Feighery said money going back to communities where the products are grown is fantastic.

“The benefits of ‘Fair Trade Certified’ to growing entities outside of the U.S. is typical of the types of programs that Procacci supports,” he said. “We are highly sustainable, and we treat all of our employees fairly. There are no social issues related to our business; people are always happy to work for us. We live in a market-based world, and if consumers choose to pay higher prices to give back to the communities that produce their food, it is their right.”

This year Procacci will again be involved in the Pink Ribbon Produce campaign that raises money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Funds raised go toward breast cancer research, educational programs and mammograms to women across the country. The company will join numerous other produce firms participating in the campaign by using a pink ribbon icon on its retail packaging.

Procacci Bros. is one of the larger wholesale produce distributors in North America. Its state-of-the-art facilities in South Philadelphia include units on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market and seven warehouses located at one of the East Coast’s busiest ports on the Delaware River.

The company also has farming operations along the East Coast for seasonal supplies and facilities in Arizona.

“We are a full line house of premium fruits and vegetables,” said Delaney. “Our signature categories are tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, citrus, chestnuts, ethnic produce, exotic specialties, tropical produce, floral and wine grapes. We also carry a full line of organics.”