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David Arena: Northeastern retailers supporting Jersey peaches from start to finish

David Arena, president of Frank Donio Inc. in Hammonton, NJ, told The Produce News June 30 that the company started receiving its first shipment of early-variety New Jersey peaches during the prior week.

“They look excellent,” said Mr. Arena. “The color and size [are] extremely good. We’ll have New Jersey peaches from now all the way through mid-September.”

Frank Donio Inc. used to grow peaches in New Jersey, but today it only packs, markets and distributes them. The company was started in 1933 by Frank Donio, who in the depths of the Great Depression, had the simple idea of sourcing south Jersey’s finest fruits and vegetables from local farms, choosing only the best produce, and selling it to area stores and markets at a fair price. He operated alone and shipped to the Philadelphia Market and the Newark Farmers Market.

Over the years, the company grew from a small warehouse in Hammonton to a leading national wholesaler of fruits, vegetables and herbs from around the world.

Today the company occupies a 75,000-square-foot building with 25 loading docks. The facility has 30,000 square-feet of cold-storage capacity and a hydrocooler used principally for peaches and corn. A mobile vacuum cooler is also used for pre-cooling all leafy vegetables. The firm also loads daily at various other shipping points such as farmers’ auction blocks and farms.

Frank Donio Inc. distributes to all points along the Eastern Seaboard, from Canada to Florida, and east of the Mississippi River.

The company’s peaches are shipped under its popular “Top Crop” label. Mr. Arena emphasized that all elements throughout the growing season were in place for an outstanding crop of peaches this year.

“The resurgence in locally grown produce has helped peach growers in particular to maintain their viability,” said Mr. Arena. “Chain retailers in New Jersey, as well as in other northeastern states, are supporting the crop and have been instrumental in keeping growers in business.”

Mr. Arena said that the company pushes the later variety of peaches because New Jersey needs its own niche in the marketing window.

“Customers are supporting the New Jersey peach crop from start to finish,” he said. “They are fully cognizant of the value in carrying our product, especially in lieu of the high price of fuel today. Just think of the energy savings that retailers in the Northeast benefit from, as compared to them bringing peaches in from California or Georgia.”