Flaim Farms eyes strong future after challenging year
Ryan Flaim looks back on the past year with a mixture of relief and gratitude.
“A year ago, we were basically unsure of how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect our business,” said Flaim, a managing member of the family-owned-and-operated R&R Flaim Next Generation Produce, based in Vineland, NJ. “When the lockdown was first implemented last March, our business took an initial hit, especially on the foodservice side.”
In the weeks that followed, Flaim saw an increase in his retail business that more than made up for losses on foodservice accounts, as people stocked their pantries and cooked at home due to the government-mandated lockdown.
Today, his retail business is stronger than ever and Flaim said he sees signs that foodservice is coming back, too, as the country slowly begins reopening due to rising vaccination rates and a reduced number of infections.
“We’ve definitely seen foodservice rebound this spring,” he said. “I would say we’re up about 50 percent from where we were at this time last year. I am very happy for the restaurant guys.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic is something most people would like to forget, Flaim said he will retain certain lessons learned from such a challenging time.
“For one, we definitely put added emphasis on our sanitation practices during the pandemic, and I plan to keep everything in place as we move past it,” he said. “That includes proper handwashing and disinfecting of equipment, as well as placement of hand sanitizer throughout the facility for easy access.”
What will not change, however, is the company’s commitment to food safety, according to Jessica Flaim, who said the company is fully certified with Global GAP, which commands the highest standards.
Ryan Flaim said the weather this spring has been extremely favorable, and he expects summer production to kick off about a week early. First out of the gate will be lettuces, eggplant, squash and Bell peppers. He said Flaim Farms has seen a remarkable increase in demand for chili peppers, and now the company offers a dozen different varieties.
“It seems to be a trendy thing, driven by the Food Network, magazines and other media,” he said.
With restrictions gradually being lifted, Flaim said he is looking forward to more face-to-face interactions with his customers.
“We’ve been doing most of our business the last year with Zoom calls, but that doesn’t take the place of in-person meetings, so we are looking forward to getting back to that,” he said.
Jessica Flaim concurred, saying that she recently attended the SEPC Southern Exposure convention and it was a refreshing return to normal. “I feel more rejuvenated after SEPC,” she said. “It helped to be back in front of our customers and I’m looking forward to attending more conventions.”