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Lucca Freezer & Cold Storage expands to meet demand

The international fruit business along the Delaware River continues to grow, and Lucca Freezer & Cold Storage Inc. is expanding to meet demand.

“We are just finishing up another expansion. We added another 32,000 square feet,” owner Rusty Lucca told The Produce News July 14.

Some of the benefits of the expansion of the Vineland, NJ, warehouse include “additional forced-air cooling capacity and some additional packinglines for bagging,” said Mr. Lucca. Nine more sealed truck bays also were added. The work was to be “pretty much complete” by the end of July. The repacking stations will be ready to service late-summer citrus importers.

While the dominant factor in the Delaware River import business was once Chilean fruit, now “it is a mix,” Mr. Lucca said. “It is a very diverse import deal.” While New Zealand and Italy are two suppliers, Lucca also handles produce from Peru, Argentina, Spain and Moroccan clementines. “Chile is still one of primary suppliers, but it’s a pretty good mix. We have South African citrus in the summer months,” he said. “We are pretty diverse now on different products coming into our warehouse. There is steady growth here. That is why we’ve made another addition. We have a very large loading dock” to make transfers and consolidations for different customers.

Mr. Lucca added, “There is Chilean product in my building 12 months a year.” This summer, there will be clementines, followed by kiwifruit and, starting at the end of August, Chilean avocados. “There is never a lapse.” Lemons come from Chile, then grapes. “A lot of apples are here now,” he noted. “Bosc pears are coming in.”

On the trucking side of the business, Lucca picks up product for customers at ports and other cold storages, and then consolidates produce for shipping to places like Boston, Florida and the Midwest.

Mr. Lucca said that the infrastructure along the Delaware River “works so well” to accommodate the international fruit business. He said that Philadelphia is the center of a large population, which creates “a great market and very good ports.”

Sophisticated cold-storage companies, such as Lucca, Manfredi and the Mullica Hill group, offer strong service to the trade, including repacking services. Being a truck transportation hub creates strong service “to other parts of the country … and having return routes back is a great asset to move product economically across the country,” said Mr. Lucca.

He added that the new Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market is “another good asset to the region. I don’t know if it helps or hurts our business, but it is a better option for all the importers. It is another place to go with their product.”

Mr. Lucca said that his firm now has 235,000 square feet of cold warehousing with a little more than a 14,000-pallet capacity.

Lucca Cold Storage has a full-time food-safety employee on staff, who continually upgrades the firm’s food-safety measures.

The company also just upgraded its custom-built software package to boost traceability and inventory tracking. “It helps our customers get all of their information in an accurate and more timely manner. It is important to our repack operation, too.”