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John Vena Inc.’s JVI Imports has seen increased growth

By
Keith Loria

John Vena Inc., is a full-service wholesale specialty produce supplier serving buyers in food distribution, retail and processing in the Mid-Atlantic, operating on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.

“The Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market is a crucial ingredient for the Philly food scene — particularly our vibrant, diverse network of independent retailers,” said Dan Vena, director of sales and marketing for the company. “Many of them rely on their ability to shop the market on their terms to make their businesses work. Without this resource, small business owners would be left with few sourcing options for fresh produce short of driving into New York or paying unsustainable prices for delivered product. All of our colleagues here are invested in supporting this access.”

Through the first quarter of 2024, JVI Imports, John Vena’s import division, has seen robust business.

“We’re in our third season for counter-season pomegranates, currently out of Peru,” Vena said. “Overall export volumes for pomegranates out of South America are down, but we have had steady weekly container arrivals. Our growers are committed to maintaining acreage and investing in continual improvement of the production process. This season’s product has been looking excellent and demand has been healthy.”

JVI Imports also launched a new program in late 2023 with mature brown coconuts from India.

“We’re exploring some new labeling options with that grower that we think will bring further value to retailers,” Vena said.

In the wholesale business, the company is also exploring some new product lines including wild mushrooms, potatoes and new tropical items like cacao and soursop.

“Over the last four years, we’ve been trying to find the ‘new normal,’ but it just doesn’t feel like we’ve settled into one yet,” Vena said. “From a business perspective, 2023 was an improvement over 2022, which was an improvement over 2021 — particularly in foodservice, which surpassed pre-COVID levels in 2022 and has continued to see strong organic growth. We expect that trend to continue, especially as the threat of recession cools down.”

Still, he noted, inflation is squeezing everybody from the grower to the consumer and the company is no exception.

“But we’re certainly benefiting from the growing confidence that’s been driving continued increases in consumer spending in 2024 so far,” Vena said.

That’s not the only challenge. Uncertainty continues to be John Vena’s biggest issue.

“Despite cooling recession fears, there is still some doubt about the global economic outlook,” Vena said. “And climate change is a major source of uncertainly as well, even driving some of the economic uncertainty. Even while overall demand has been good, individual commodity markets that were knocked off course by COVID-19 have continued to be unpredictable. This uncertainty has made it much more challenging to plan both in the short-term and long term.”

That impacts everything from how much product the company needs from week-to-week to scheduling its import seasons.

“So far good communication and a collaborative approach internally and externally has proven the best tool in the face of uncertainty,” Vena said.

Still, there is plenty to be thankful about and opportunities for growth ahead.

“We’re focusing on growth in our import division and logistics department,” Vena said. “Investing in these foundational services has added a crucial layer of value to our relationships with customers, and we want to continue to deepen those relationships. Despite growing regulatory complexity around both importing and transportation that make operating in this space increasingly challenging, we are capitalizing on our experience to keep our growth in these areas above the index.”

Photo: Dan Vena looking at Spanish blonde frisee with Sales Support Associate Chris Scotti. Photo courtesy of John Vena Inc.

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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