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Garden Fresh Salad Co. taking things day by day

By
Keith Loria

Operating out of the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA, those at Garden Fresh Salad Co. are looking forward to better days in 2021 after the uncertainty that surrounded everything as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When it first hit, it was a shock to the system and we were scrambling around trying to figure out what to do,” said Patrick Burke, co-owner and sales and purchasing representative for the company. “Like everyone, we adapted and are now back to about 90 percent of what we were doing. So, it’s all basically back to normal, but that could change any day as well.”

Garden Fresh Salad Co. distributes to customers from New York throughout New England and into Canada. Historically, its customers are primarily wholesalers who sell direct to retailers and foodservice operators, though it also services retail chains and some one- and two-store independent retailers.

“I’m not prepared to do any forecasting about what’s ahead; we’re just taking things a day at a time,” Burke said. “If you had asked me about plans for growth earlier in the year, none of it would have applied, so we have to take the days as they come. It’s kind of a waste of time in this environment to make plans as it’s too unpredictable. We take it day by day and do our best and see how the cards fall.”

With the holidays approaching, he does expect that things will pick up even more than they had in the fall, and he’s looking forward to that.

“Normally during this time, we may slow down in certain areas, but gain back in others — more yams, carrots and traditional holiday items,” Burke said. “The lettuce items tend to tail off a little from normal demands.”

Garden Fresh Salad Co. does offer a pre-cut program where it can dice up and package custom combinations to meet anyone’s specific needs and that has been gaining in popularity this fall, with a steady demand.

“Anything in plastic — be is sleeves or bags — has been popular, because it’s less amount of contact with the produce,” Burke said. “That was trending even last year, but even more so now with the whole COVID-19 experience.”

Schools in Boston have not yet returned full-time, and colleges will shut down until 2021 once Thanksgiving comes, so Burke expects that could impact what trends well during December and January. It’s all about finding what people need and delivering on those needs.

“We have a very large processing operation, and we can do orders from five-pound units all the way up to thousands of pounds,” Burke said. “People call in the order a day ahead of time and we will have it waiting for them the next morning, and a lot of people even call in and pick up the same day. We have a fast turnaround and product doesn’t stay in our facility more than a day or two, and that keeps everything fresh.”

One of the keys for staying competitive during 2020 has been not letting COVID-19 get people down.

“We try to stay upbeat. If I’m walking around down and everything is negative, that’s going to work its way down on everyone,” Burke said. “You try and stay positive and put out a good attitude, and your workers will tend to follow. Our whole company deserves a shout-out for transitioning and taking on new responsibilities during this whole fiasco. We are doing more with less people right now and everyone has been great.”

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July 23, 2021

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