“This season is off to a great start with excellent quality and a good market with strong demand,” Michael D’Ottavio, president of M. D’Ottavio Produce Inc. in Vineland, NJ, told The Produce News May 11. “Freight rates from out west are so high that it leaves more room for eastern growers to market their product. If quality and demand stays this strong. we should have a fantastic season in Jersey.”
Mr. D’Ottavio added that with more and more chains asking for third-party audits to protect consumers, the company is proud to be in its second year with PrimusGFS, a private system that establishes requirements for the certification of products of the agricultural sector in a voluntary manner at a worldwide level.
“With this high a level of a certification, our customers can rest assured that they will receive the highest food-safety produce available,” Mr. D’Ottavio stated. “A lot of work goes into acquiring this certification.”
Regarding this year’s New Jersey crops, he said that the Jersey lettuce deal is moving along perfectly. The cooler nights and right amount of rain have resulted in a great crop, although he noted that it’s not ideal for fruits. The company will move lettuces through the middle to end of June.
“We are very excited to start this blueberry season with our own ‘D’Ottavio Produce’ label,” announced Mr. D’Ottavio. “It will be placed only on first-pick, high-quality blueberries. Our goal is to supply our customers with a new label that is different and to identify our extra-fancy, high-quality blueberries. As we increase the number of grower-partners we have, we must look for new ways to promote product. We think this extra-fancy pack will do just that.”
The company expects to start blueberries around June 10-15, and the program should extend to the first week of August.
Due to the increasing demand for organic produce, D’Ottavio Produce has teamed up with four certified organic growers in New Jersey.
“These are top-notch organic growers,” said Mr. D’Ottavio. “They grow several items, including cilantro, arugula, dill, green and red leaf lettuces, Romaine, green and yellow squash and tomatoes. They are producing really great produce, which will be a big help to fill the increase in demand we are feeling. The growers’ labels will be used on the product with PLUs and organic certification.”
D’Ottavio’s organics’ program has enabled the company to open an entirely new world of produce that it has never touched on in the past.
“We have noticed a strong increase in sales since we started this program,” said Mr. D’Ottavio. “Adding organically grown produce to our sales list is just one more way to supply our customers with all that New Jersey has to offer.”
He added that Jersey’s yellow and white peach and nectarine crops are looking good at this point, and he anticipates high quality and strong volumes on all the items.