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Teamwork and service keep Harvest Brokerage on top of its game

FOREST PARK, GA — Howard Mundt, president of Harvest Brokerage Inc. on the Atlanta State Farmers Market, here, knows his industry has an edge that few others can boast.

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Howard Mundt, president of Harvest Brokerage Inc. on the Atlanta State Farmers Market, has been selling produce for 44 years. (Photo by Chip Carter)

“I always say, ‘Somewhere, some place, somebody is eating something that has to be replaced.’ You just have to find your niche,” said Mr. Mundt, who has been selling produce for 44 years. These days, “you just have to try harder, that’s all. You have to dig for it and find it. The business is probably more competitive than it’s ever been.”

Long-time contacts and moving volume help Harvest stay on top of its game.

“Nickels and dimes are what you’re talking about, and everybody’s working on nickels and dimes. When you move volume, you can hide a lot of stuff. If you have to sell it individually, you can’t make it; if you have one problem, it wipes you out. When there’s volume, you can cover it,” Mr. Mundt said.

It also helps to have a good team in place, preferably one that has worked together for years, as is the case at Harvest with Mr. Mundt and partners Francine and Charles Johnson. “We have good people,” Mr. Mundt said.

Buyers “don’t speculate any more. When they place an order, they have somebody in line for that, and that’s why they order the way they do,” he said. “They used to say, ‘Give me a truck or two.’ Now they’re not going to take a chance any more.”

But “that doesn’t change our business. We’ve always tried to have good produce, work with good shippers and provide timely service,” Mr. Mundt said.

Buyers are “staying with their staples,” but Mr. Mundt said that he sees continued growth in the exotic market. “We do have communities that demand exotic product because they’re used to it. They come from the old country, and they require it: It’s part of their menu.”

Everybody wants home cooking, no matter where home is, Mr. Mundt said. That is why Hispanic, Asian and other categories that were once niche markets continue to grow and cross over into the mainstream.

Mr. Mundt said that price does not drive the retail market as much as some believe. Consumers are still impulse buyers. “It’s not a luxury market any more, but if they’re in [the produce department] and there’s some good presentation from the store, they do some impulse buying.”

Mr. Mundt said that his wife recently came home with a bag of oranges from the supermarket. That surprised him because “I can get an entire box off the market for what she paid for that one bag. I asked her why she bought them and she said, ‘They looked good and they smelled good and I wanted an orange.’“