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Carcione’s Fresh Produce counts bananas among top items

Pete Carcione, president of Carcione’s Fresh Produce Co. Inc., encourages customers to visit the company at the Golden Gate Produce Terminal in South San Francisco, CA to feast upon Mother Nature’s bounty. “We don’t deliver,” he told The Produce News Sept. 26. “We want customers to come to the terminal to see and smell the produce. Flavors are important.”

The company works with small stores, mid-sized chains, ethnic stores and restaurants. Carcione’s Fresh Produce employs 21 people. “We move a lot of produce,” Mr. Carcione said. “And it takes a lot of personalities. We have a good crew. They’re all working hard.”

Carcione’s Fresh Produce markets a wide range of commodities and specialty items. “Bananas have got to be right up there,” he said of the company’s volume leaders. Because they are marketed throughout the year, Mr. Carcione went on to say, “Bananas are a good backstop.”

Keeping bananas at the peak of perfection is important to Mr. Carcione. “The banana rooms we put in 16 years ago changed the whole business,” he said. “Humidity is 100 percent. We must keep humidity high to keep flavor high.” Bananas are initially stored at 62 degrees to bring up optimum color. Once achieved, bananas are stored at 58 degrees to keep maintain color and taste.

The starch in bananas changes to sugar as the fruit matures. “Mother Nature is wonderful,” Mr. Carcione said. “People buy them all year. Bananas are very special. And consumers remember the quality of their purchases, good or bad.”

Mr. Carcione said he does a lot of business with Dole and is very pleased with the company’s bananas. “We have a nice, steady volume,” he went on to say. “Sales are good. Banana prices have been very stable. Not too high. Growers are making a good return.”

Like other fresh produce, bananas are being consumed because of their healthful benefits to the human body. “We can thank all the doctors for pushing fresh produce for us,” he chuckled. “Antioxidants are important.”

Interest in ethnic cooking is increasing in the United States, and use of bananas as an ingredient in meals is on the rise. “People are cooking more with bananas,” he said.

He illustrated by talking about the San Francisco Bay area, which has large Chinese, Vietnamese, Hispanic and East Indian populations. “They have big families. They know how to buy,” Mr. Carcione observed.

Items carried by ethnic stores have also evolved. “Populations are moving and changing. Things are changing. The neighborhoods have changed. Ethnic stores have changed to accept all the populations. They do play toward their area. They want good produce,” he said.

Bananas are prominently featured in a chapter of their own in The New Greengrocer Cookbook, republished last year. The original cookbook was published in 1975 by Mr. Carcione’s father, Joe. During republication, 13 new contributors and their recipes were added. Mr. Carcione said that most of the contributors are chefs. “Some have their own cookbooks,” he added. “They remember dad. I’m really proud of the book.”