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Dandrea produce expanding organic offerings in New Jersey

By
Keith Loria

Dandrea Produce started its growing operation in 1917. Now that it’s into its fourth generation, the company continues to see tremendous growth on the fruit categories, which it imports and does year-round. It also has a special place in its heart for the local New Jersey vegetable program.

The company’s service facility in Vineland, NJ houses repack equipment, cold storage, hydrocoolers and Dandrea Produce’s own fleet of trucks. It also has several remote expediting offices to streamline its import programs. Dandrea Produce still owns and operates the same farm from back 105 years ago and has been bringing that forward to a necessary part of the produce industry.

“The project we’ve been on working for several years has been converting our farm to an organic operation,” said Peter Dandrea, director of sales for the Vineland, NJ-based company. “For us to see that come to life during the last year-and-a-half has been really exciting.”

So far, the company has converted 101 acres of its 250-acre farm to a full-line of organics.

“It’s time consuming and costly, but that’s where things are going and we are seeing exciting things there,” Dandrea said. “The way we see it, there’s not too many growers in the state of New Jersey who can offer a full line of the herbs, lettuces, greens and the summer crops, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Dandrea Produce pushes the motto of “24 hours fresh,” and while it’s not something that every retailer is able to do, those that can have product in their distribution centers or in their stores the next day after harvest.

“We’re trying to get as vertical as possible and transitioning a lot of our vegetable operation into organics,” Dandrea said.

The pandemic has made the consumer base much more aware of what they’re eating, which has been good for Dandrea Produce and the industry as a whole.

“We think that that’s going to hold,” Dandrea said. “We think people are becoming more health conscious, and know that’s a good thing. Our mission statement talks about how fresh fruits and vegetables are a foundation of a healthy and happy lifestyle. We are glad to see the industry moving that way.”

There have unfortunately been some challenges in the past year as it works to get its organic program going strong. In addition to dealing with the impact of the pandemic, Dandrea Produce has faced some labor issues, saw material shortages and dealt with increases in freight rates.

“These are things that the industry as a whole is battling and by putting as much of the processes in-house as possible, we’ve kind of protected ourselves to some degree to some of that uncertainty,” Dandrea said. “So, while it has been challenging, we’ve been able to continue to be right on schedule to convert almost that entire field into organics in the coming years.”

Dandrea Produce has increased its production 35 percent year-over-year, and is still having a hard time keeping up with demand.

“It’s a great program and we think it will continue to grow,” Dandrea said. “The cool weather that we’ve had has set us up for a good crop this year. Product is looking very healthy. We expect a really bountiful year in New Jersey on the veg side.”

Elsewhere around the company, another Dandrea has joined the ranks, with Peter’s sister Bridget joining the sales team and continuing the long legacy of the family.

“My grandfather took the business over from my great grandfather in the ’50s, and he always told us that it was really important in this business to be honest and loyal, and for us, the hard work aspect of what we do comes naturally,” Dandrea said. “At Dandrea, we try to be forthright, and stick to our core values, which are family, honest and integrity.”

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June 18, 2021

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