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Fresh chestnuts flagship of Trucco’s fall dried fruit and nut offerings

A.J. Trucco Inc., located on the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx, NY, is an importer, wholesaler and distributor of domestic and imported nuts, dried fruit and fresh produce. While the company handles an assortment of dried fruit and nut products, particularly during the fall period leading into the holidays, fresh chestnuts imported from Italy are “most important,” according to Nick Pacia, vice president. “We do big volumes during the holidays.”

“So far, everything seems to be in order” for a good crop of chestnuts this year, arriving in New York beginning early October, Mr. Pacia told The Produce News Sept. 1. “We spoke early this morning with some of the shippers,” he said. “Even though it has been very hot overseas, it seems the crop is on time and is in good condition.”

The first harvest from the earliest region was expected to begin around Sept. 20, with the first arrivals by air coming into the United States around Oct. 7, he said. “That will continue for a couple of weeks,” and then the first ocean container shipments were expected to arrive around the end of October. “We will continue through Thanksgiving and Christmas” with arrivals of ocean containers, he said.

It was still too early to make a good projection regarding “the size of the crop or the size of the nuts,” Mr. Pacia said. Chestnuts grow inside husks, so “it is not easy to estimate” either crop or nut size. But overall, looking at the trees, “the crop looks pretty good.”

Trucco has increased its sales of chestnuts over the last couple of years, Mr. Pacia said. the company offers several value-added retail packages such as a 1-pound clamshell, a 1-pound bag, and a 2-pound clamshell, as well as dry pints. However, a 25-pound bag remains “the most popular package for bulk.”

Upon arrival, the chestnuts are all “brought to our distribution center in Vineland, NJ.” There, “we brush them and polish them” to give them a nice look and a fresh appearance, and either re-bag them into the same 25-pound bags or repack them into retail consumer packs, “depending on the orders that we have.” he said.

“All of the cargo comes in under refrigeration,” he said. The ocean containers are refrigerated to maintain the cold chain. They are kept under refrigeration in Trucco’s facility and are shipped to customers in refrigerated trucks to assure freshness. “We advise customers to keep them under refrigeration at all times to avoid any issues.”

In addition to the chestnuts from Italy, Trucco imports dried figs from Italy, Turkey and Greece.

“We have a year-round program on the Turkish,” Mr. Pacia said. “It is too early to say” what the crop volume will be, but as a company, Trucco has “committed to the same volumes as last year.”

Volume will be “a little bit less this year” for dried figs from Greece, and the price should be a little less” as well, meaning that they “should be more inclined to be a normal price. “There should be enough volume for the United States,” he said.

From Italy, “we use a specialty item that we have during Thanksgiving and Christmas and then we discontinue,” Mr. Pacia said. It is “a different type of fig” that is “very prized.”

The company also handles domestic dried figs. “It seems to be a very nice season so far” on the fresh domestic figs, he said. So he expects it to also be a good season for the dried figs, which should be available shortly after mid-September.

With regard to domestic dates, “the Medjool seems to be getting a nice start,” he said. “We should have some first crop next week.”

On “the nut side,” he said, “we are expecting to have good crops on almonds and walnuts and filberts.” The company also handles pecans from the South, but Mr. Pacia said he did not know what to expect with those crops yet.

Most of the nuts Trucco handles during the holiday period are in-shell nuts, sold both bulk and in packages. In addition, “we do some shelled walnuts,” he said.

New this year in the nut category will be an imported roasted filberts, or hazelnuts, in an eight-ounce retail pack. Trucco handled the roasted filberts last year, “but we didn’t have the retail pack that we have this year.” The product comes vacuum-packed inside a high-graphics cardboard outer box. “It is a nice packaging,” Mr. Pacia said.