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I Love Produce has decades of success with garlic

By
Keith Loria

Produce veterans Jim Provost and Neil Millman joined forces to form I Love Produce, a wholesale garlic and produce company with strong values, a family atmosphere and a steady supply chain of garlic, shallots and ginger for their customers.

“The team at I Love Produce are garlic specialists, so the category is very important to us, as it is to impart current information about the market, garlic supply and other pertinent information to our customers on a weekly basis,” said Provost about the West Grove, PA-based company. “As we work with all growing areas, we have an abundant supply with flexibility to shift if needed to maximize quality of cost for our customers.”

Provost has been in the garlic business since 1991 and is not slowing down as he works his fourth decade. Through the years, he’s seen a lot of evolution of the category.

“The changes have been many and impactful,” he said. “For instance, Chinese garlic became a major factor in the world market in the mid-90s, and now China is the biggest exporter of fresh garlic in the world. Spain also became an important supplier to North America in the last 10 years. At retail, 3-bulb and 5-bulb mesh nets have become an important part of the fresh category along with bulk garlic.”

The secret to success in the category, he noted, was having good people who understand garlic and investing enough time into the category.

In 2021, the garlic industry had some challenges, but it was nothing that I Love Produce’s team wasn’t ready for.

“Last year was an interesting situation because of supply chain disruptions,” Provost said. “So, if you managed them well, your company and your customers performed well. Because we have taken care of our team over many years, before and during COVID-19, we have a great and very loyal group. This will be the key to our growth in the future.”

For the 2022 season, he characterizes the garlic outlook for the Northern Hemisphere crop as a “three-fold situation,” noting the new crop garlic is harvested in Spain, China and will soon be in California as well, with the amount of garlic on par with last year.

“China has an excellent quality year, with good yields,” he said. “Spain will have good supplies, but size is down in some growing regions. California is looking good, and we will have a better idea when the garlic is in the packing house.”

For retailers looking to have a strong garlic program, Provost recommends three things to help. One, to focus on organic to capture the high-end market and a loyal consumer.  Second is to tout non-Chinese bulk garlic to capture the premium bulk garlic customer. Finally, to offer Chinese-packaged garlic to capture the consumer that is budget-minded and deal oriented.   

“I Love Produce is able to help our retail customers with all three categories,” he said.

The I Love Produce team will soon be headed to the IFPA Foodservice Conference, operating booth No. 400, where it will have some of its latest garlic and produce items. Provost is looking forward to the show and expects everyone to get the most out of this important show.

Behind the scenes at the company, Berkeley Jones is a new addition to the I Love Produce team, supporting the sales operation. Jones has a background in sales and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelor of

Science degree in natural resource conservation.

“Coming from a family with agricultural roots in the Midwest, he is happy to transition into the produce industry, an area he is passionate about,” Provost said.

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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