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Tom Consalo now in sales at The Fresh Wave

VINELAND, NJ — Tom Consalo, director of sales at The Fresh Wave, was looking at a very early but “overwhelming” start to the 2012 New Jersey spring produce deal. Volume has been strong and quality has been excellent, two qualities he hopes will mark the entire local season.

“Thus far we’ve had an overwhelming start to the season,” Mr. Consalo told The Produce News May 8. “The volume this season has been a tremendous jump from prior years, obviously due to the warm weather we’ve had.”

With an unusually mild winter and early spring in the Garden freshwave3827Tom Consalo, director of sales at The Fresh Wave, with some green leaf lettuce and Romaine at the company’s facility. State, “the season on average is about two weeks earlier” than normal, he noted. The company was already handling “all the herbs,” he added. “We’re into the cooking greens, all the lettuces — we’ve had radish and leeks for quite some time.” High-volume dry items such as squashes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant “should be pretty much on time,” he noted, which would be around mid- to the end of June.

The early start to New Jersey veg items has been good for retailers looking to promote local items to consumers. “We do a lot of business locally as well as with chains that are farther away,” said Mr. Consalo. Having Jersey items so early “was a big help to those guys because of the lower freight rates” compared to rates from farther away. “For them to be able to save that money — we welcome that.”

Taking advantage of lower freight rates was not the only reason to jump into the early Jersey deal. “Quality’s been phenomenal,” said Mr. Consalo. “We’ve had nothing but good feedback from our retailers. That’s a good sign.”

It’s always difficult to see too far into the future, of course, but Mr. Consalo predicted that this year’s early start in New Jersey also would apply to blueberries, one of the state’s key items.

“Blueberries will be quite a bit early,” he predicted. “We’re going to be two weeks early and possibly earlier. We’re hoping to have pretty good volume by the second week of June.” He cautioned that “a lot could happen” as the blueberry season progressed, but he reiterated, “I foresee a good season all the way through. The bushes look good and the weather has cooperated.” Perhaps the only downside to that scenario would be some overlap with blueberries from North Carolina.

Tom Consalo, 26, joined The Fresh Wave in September 2011, after working about four years full time (and part time before that) at Wm. Consalo & Sons Farms, also in Vineland. Asked to characterize the change, he replied, “It was a good opportunity at the time. The transition has been smooth. I really enjoy what I’m doing. I couldn’t be happier.”

Now in its ninth year, The Fresh Wave — started by Skip Consalo and headquartered here at the Vineland Produce Auction in southern New Jersey — is a grower, shipper, importer and distributor of a full line of fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world.

In additional changes at The Fresh Wave over the past year, Nick Giordano left the company in August, and Scott Wulderk was promoted to vice president.

The satellite office that the company had opened in March 2011 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, has been closed, and Hernan Brave, who had been running that office, left the firm. Asked if the company had any plans regarding other satellite offices, Tom Consalo replied, “We’re always entertaining ideas and opportunities, but there’s nothing set in stone right now.”

When asked if the company was looking at any additional construction projects in the near future, he replied, “This year especially we’ve enjoyed a big boost in volume, which may necessitate some type of addition, but again, nothing is set in stone.”