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Mutual Produce Corp. now under single ownership

Philip Forster, general manager of Mutual Produce Corporation, located on the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA, told The Produce News that as of the middle of October 2011, the company is owned entirely by Tom Ciovacco, who is also its president.

“The company was founded in 1961 by Lewis Gussman,” he explained. “About ten years ago, he sold it to four partners — people who were employed by him at the time — and Tom was one of those partners. Over the years, they began going in different directions, and Tom wanted to operate the business the way he saw best, which resulted in the buyout.”

Mr. Ciovacco purchased his partners’ share of the business with his own personal money, not funds from the business. Mr. Forster said that the company is proud of its four-X, double-A Blue Book rating, and they intend to keep it financially strong.

“Our first priority is to make sure our current customers and our suppliers are maintained and that our service to them remains exemplary,” said Mr. Forster. “Our plan is to take care of the business we have on hand before we even consider making changes in the future.”

Mutual Produce Corporation’s customers are major and small retail chains, independent retailers, wholesalers and foodservice operators. Mr. Forster said that the company purposely services a wide range of customer types because that strategy enables it to be flexible and cover a wide realm of business types.

“Major retail chains continue to do a pretty good business with us,” said Mr. Forster. “They want control over their supplies and they don’t want to run short, so we’re a good fill-in supplier for them. I believe that in the future, more will head back to terminal market distributors to increase their fresh produce purchases.”

The higher end of the foodservice industry, Mr. Forster added, seems to be doing very well despite the economic slowdown of the past few years.

“Those in the middle, like the casual dining establishments, seem to be struggling a little,” he said. “And they are spending a little differently. But if consumers aren’t eating out, they’re eating at home. Either way they have to eat. This is why we like to service all the category bases.”

Mutual Produce Corporation handles a full line of commodity fruits and vegetables. In late October, it was heavy into its cantaloupe, honeydew, California vegetable, grape and full berry line movements.

On the recent buyout, Mr. Forster added, “We have some visions for the future that will help to bring the company forward, but the buyout was only two weeks ago, and we’re going one step at a time. For now, we’re just freshening up our facilities.

“There have been no staff changes in the buyout, and we have maintained our full crew,” he continued. “Nothing related to how we do business has changed. Customers will continue to be serviced with the same high-quality produce and customer care that we have always prided ourselves on.”