PITTSBURGH – As the summer months approach, area retailers and consumers alike eagerly anticipate the launch of the 2011 season for locally and regionally grown produce. "What we've found is that our customers associate in-season produce with peak freshness, better value and environmental consciousness," said Giant Eagle Vice President of Produce, Craig Ignatz. "No matter where it's from – a local farm or the far side of the globe – we ask ourselves the same questions, every day: how fast can we get it to our customers, and how fresh can it be?"
Getting Fresh Produce Out of the Ground and into the Store
Giant Eagle begins with government standards for safe produce handling and employs an extensive fleet of 225 tractor trailers, equipped to ensure the fastest transportation, under ideal temperature conditions, to the company's stores in the shortest time possible.
"From original source to a local Giant Eagle store, the freshest produce is always on the move, around the clock, from wherever it's best," said Ignatz. "Weíre one of the biggest buyers of produce in the U.S., and we work hard to ensure that our offerings get from the farm to your table as safely and as fresh as possible."
Giant Eagle sources millions of pounds of fresh produce to stores each year. Annually, Giant Eagle customers consume:
- 56 million pounds of bananas
- 11 million pounds of strawberries
- 17 million ears of corn
- Nearly 17 million pounds of Idaho potatoes
Produce is a Priority
Fresh fruits and vegetables comprised two of the top three grocery items for Baby Boomers in 2010 after failing to make the top five 30 years ago, reflecting trends toward healthier, lower-fat foods according to a recent industry survey conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive.
According to the survey, 83% of adults ranked fresh fruit among their top five grocery list items followed by 79% who included fresh vegetables.
"Fruits and vegetables can help build the immune system and reduce the risk for several health issues," said Judy Dodd, Giant Eagle Corporate Nutritionist. "These are foods that are a good source of your daily fiber and are naturally cholesterol-free, which puts them high on the list for heart-smart eating."
In-Season is in Style
Purchasing produce at its seasonal peak is more popular than ever and better retailers are responding to the seasonal trend according to the ethnographic research division at The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Washington.
"Every fruit and vegetable has its own special time of year when it just tastes better, juicier, sweeter," said Ignatz. "We partner with the most reputable growers in order to deliver fruits and vegetables to our customers at the height of their flavor."
Giant Eagle takes numerous steps to educate consumers on which fruits and vegetables at their peak season throughout the year. According to Ignatz, depending on the season, the produce won't necessarily be from our region, but may come from farther away where climate and growing conditions are ideal. Giant Eagle works with suppliers to identify where its produce can come from during different times of the year to ensure the best consumption experience.
"In short, yes, some produce is grown regionally, such as our Wexford Farms tomatoes, beets and corn," said Ignatz. "We also offer the juiciest apples from Washington, the tastiest blueberries from Michigan, and the sweetest pears from South America."
Giant Eagle Celebrates the Upcoming Season for Fresh Regionally Grown Produce
For information about Giant Eagle produce sourcing efforts, watch the multimedia video and learn more About Our Produce.
About Giant Eagle
Giant Eagle Inc., ranked 29 on Forbes magazine’s largest private corporations list and recipient of Grocery Headquarters’ 2007 Retailer of the Year Award and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Retail Partner of the Year Award, is one of the nation’s largest food retailers and food distributors with approximately $8.6 billion in annual sales. Founded in 1931, Giant Eagle, Inc. has grown to be the number one supermarket retailer in the region with 170 corporate and 58 independently owned and operated supermarkets in addition to 162 fuel and convenience stores throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, north central West Virginia and Maryland.