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European Flavors a huge boost to A.J. Trucco and its retail customers

“The European Flavors promotional program is in the final year of its second three-year term,” Nick Pacia, vice president of A.J. Trucco Inc., located at the Hunts Point Terminal Market, told The Produce News.

“All of our promotional projects will be completed by next February,” he said. “We believe they will then renew the project for another term because it has been hugely successful, but they will do it a little differently. They will likely expand the scope to other countries such as Russia and other Asian nations.”

The program is customized for every country where it is promoted. In the United States, for example, it covers only kiwifruit. Canada participates by promoting pears, apples, kiwi, citrus and grapes. Other countries have their own selected list of products that are produced in the European Union.

P1020140Nick Pacia, vice president, and Sal Vacca, president of A.J. Trucco, located on the Hunts Point Terminal Market. (Photo by Christina DiMartino)“The execution of the program is very well done,” said Mr. Pacia. “We are able to pass many benefits on to our customers; retailers and wholesalers alike. You cannot promote unless you put your hands in your pockets, so having the funding of European Flavors behind us makes us larger and stronger. The store demos that these stores fund are extremely successful. We also use the funds for press points and to get more information out to consumers. This combination has had an outstanding result.”

The European Flavors’ program started in 2008, and kiwifruit sales have increased tremendously for A.J. Trucco every year since. This year a nationwide retailer did a major demo and sold 45,000 cases of kiwifruit in one day.

“Every time we do sampling we have 75-85 percent jump in sales, and I get calls from people saying ‘I need kiwifruit and I need it fast,’” said Mr. Pacia. “Our new kiwifruit campaign will be announced in September.”

Asked how many containers of Italian kiwifruit A.J. Trucco imported this year, Mr. Pacia responded, “A lot.” Over the next three-year promotional term, the company will work on developing a European Flavors kiwifruit -specific label.

“It’s been a great season for Italian kiwifruit,” he added. “The quality has been excellent, and we pushed the program three weeks longer, to about May 15, than we have in past years. The New Zealand kiwifruit crop will start soon, but it is expected to be short compared to previous seasons. This will undoubtedly drive prices higher.”

A.J. Trucco is well known in the industry for its Italian chestnuts in a program which runs from October to December. It has also added a roasted, peeled and ready-to-eat chestnut item to its lineup. The 3.5-ounce aluminum bag is packaged under protected environmental conditions that keep the chestnuts fresh. It is currently sold under the “Sweet Nature” label, but Mr. Pacia said the company will develop its own label for the item in the future.

“These, like our fresh chestnuts, are from Avellino, Italy,” said Mr. Pacia. “The region is known around the world for its high-quality chestnuts. We’ll start with fresh chestnuts from producers there again in October.”

Dried fruits and nuts are a year-round business for A.J. Trucco. Mr. Pacia said export demands have been high, driving prices up.

“We hope in the coming season that there will be less stress on nut prices,” he said. “We cover a full range that comes from both domestic and foreign sources.”

Prices have been up a little on dried fruits, he added, but not badly. Demand continues to be strong, and there have been no hiccups in the category.

The company also handles New Zealand Royal Gala and Fuji apple varieties. Mr. Pacia said the program starts around mid-April.

“We hope to have supplies for a few months, but that may change,” he said. “As of now we expect to finish up with New Zealand apples around June or July.”

“We increased our Royal Gala apple program from Chile this year,” he said. It started a month early, and runs for about two months. The program continues with product maintained in controlled atmosphere storage after that.

A.J. Trucco is in its third year of importing fresh Black Mission figs from Chile. It expects its volumes to at least double — possibly even more than that — this year. The figs come in single layer trays and eight-ounce clamshells. The program runs from December through mid-May.

“Fresh figs from Arizona will start on May 25, and from California on June 5,” said Mr. Pacia. “This, added to our Chilean program, means that we will now have fresh figs year-round. We handle black and brown figs from California early in the season, and then transition to green figs later in the season.”