Originally printed in the July 2023 issue of Produce Business.
Where do most New Yorkers get their fresh produce? Odds are it comes through the Hunts Point Produce Market, a wholesale produce market located in Bronx, NY. Fresh produce is delivered to the market each day via plane, train, boat, and tractor-trailer from 49 states and 55 countries.
The Hunts Point Produce Market plays an essential role in New York City and the region’s food supply chain, and the city — as well as market administration and merchants — is working to ensure it remains a vital resource. The challenge is to chart a path toward critical modernization and redevelopment, while meeting ongoing food demands, increasing food security measures, and reducing the market’s environmental impact. To get an update on the market, Produce Business recently spoke with Phillip Grant, chief executive of the Hunts Point Produce Market.
Q. Can you please give us a bird’s-eye view of what happens in a typical 24-hour period at Hunts Point? For example, how many truckloads, pallets, cases, etc. of produce come in and out of the market in a given day?
GRANT: Every year, more than 210 million packages of produce pass through the market, thanks to some of the most streamlined logistics in the business. Our stock is handled with care to ensure the highest degree of food safety.
Soon after produce reaches our merchants, it makes its way to wholesalers, retailers, independent grocers, restaurateurs, and more, across the five boroughs and beyond. As technologies to optimize food freshness and safety have advanced, so has the market. Hunts Point keeps up with innovations that allow us to operate at the speed and scale necessary to serve one of the largest cities in the world.
Q. One of the overall themes of this year’s Market Profile is the fact that Hunts Point offers many opportunities to shrewd buyers looking for the best prices and quality during holidays and seasonal changes. Can you speak to ways the Hunts Point market facilitates these opportunity buys?
GRANT: From locally farmed fruits and vegetables to international specialties, Hunts Point offers a fresh array of competitively priced produce to meet all our customers’ needs. Our expert merchants are here to serve the neighborhood shop owners stocking their shelves for the specialized cuisines of their community, the restaurateur looking for exciting seasonal options to delight diners, and the big-chain buyer sourcing kitchen staples that will reach thousands of homes.
Q. We have witnessed the long-term relationships the wholesalers on the market have with local suppliers in New York and New Jersey, in particular. Do you have any involvement with the Departments of Agriculture for these states and their efforts to promote locally grown?
GRANT: We are actively engaged on the state level with the New York State Department of Agriculture via associations such as the farm bureau. We travelled to the farm bureau event last December and their event in Albany earlier this year.
“As technologies to optimize food freshness and safety have advanced, so has the market.”
Q. Sustainability is a key topic that many wholesalers mention as a challenge and opportunity for future growth. How does the market overall address sustainability?
GRANT: We are currently embarking on a future revitalization of the market that will allow us to reduce our carbon footprint. In the interim, we have started a phased project and installed NYC Cool Roof — energy-saving reflective rooftops — on a portion of roofs. According to NYC Cool Roofs, every 2,500 square feet of roof that is coated can reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 1 ton of CO2 and help fight climate change.
NYC CoolRoofs, which supports the city’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, is a partnership between the NYC Department of Small Business Services, its Workforce1 Industrial & Transportation Career Center, the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, and The HOPE Program.
To date, the Hunts Point Produce Market has reduced up to 30 tons of CO2 via the NYC CoolRoof.
Q. A big part of your job is to reach out to government officials and NGOs in the area. Please tell us about your relationship with the mayor of New York City and other politicians and city planners. How often do they visit the market and how invested do you think they are in realizing the economic impact of the Hunts Point Market overall?
GRANT: We have a positive working relationship with our government stakeholders, and actively engage with our elected officials in Albany and Washington D.C. Revitalization of the market is a matter of national security, and Mayor Eric Adams has contributed $130M to this effort. The federal government has issued $110M, and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office has committed $130M.
Q. Finally, we see the area surrounding the Hunts Point Market is also evolving, and more housing is planned for the area. How do you see the market’s role in the broader community?
GRANT: We continue to support nearly 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. With the redevelopment of the market, we anticipate fueling economic development by generating 1,000 new jobs for New Yorkers. We are also proud that a majority of our work force is local Bronxites.
The future of food security is tied to the future of Hunts Point Produce Market and regional hubs like ours that keep New York and the world fed.