How Produce Wholesale, Distribution Curates Community Culture

Stefanie Katzman

Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of Produce Business.

“Celebrating Our Food… Our Culture” … “Bringing your homeland closer since 1974.”

Every time I read these words on the side of a Patel Brothers truck, I am reminded of all the different things that food means to people. For some, food is a taste of home. For others, food is a taste of somewhere they may never get to visit. Food is transportive. It’s a feeling, an experience. It celebrates our heritage and our ancestors. It keeps memories alive.

Food means so much more to people than its functional benefit of nourishment; it means culture. And it’s our privilege – and responsibility – as a wholesaler/distributor to curate this culture for our community.

Our team at S. Katzman Produce in New York City has access to every type of produce you could possibly imagine. It’s our job to be aware of and understand all of the produce that exists in the world, and to select the right items to bring here to New York. We work closely with our retail customers to understand their neighborhoods, audience demographics and sales operations so that we can provide exactly what they want, and also surprise and delight them with products they don’t yet know they want. We source fruits and vegetables from 51 countries across 6 continents to ensure that the millions of people living in our area have access to the foods that will fulfill their desired cultural experiences.

Once we bring this range of products to New York, we supply it throughout NYC’s ethnic enclaves such as Chinatown and Little Italy, but our multicultural offerings also extend much farther than this. What many people don’t realize is how important it is for all of the city’s retailers to be able to serve multicultural audiences in order to succeed. There are over three million immigrants in our densely populated city, and customers demand diverse product offerings, otherwise they’ll take their business somewhere else, possibly altogether. Retailers won’t be able to survive, let alone thrive, if they’re not able to provide the items their customers want.

Additionally, it can be challenging for smaller retailers to bring in the variety of multicultural products they need due to limitations regarding quantities, perishability and cost. Wholesaler/distributor partners like Katzman, however, can mix pallets, maximize space, split delivery costs, and act as additional storage, helping the retailer to cut down costs and maximize efficiency. We make sure that the retailers are stocked with the variety they need to satisfy their customer base, stay in business and ultimately succeed.

NYC retailers need to have multicultural offerings to survive, and in turn, the fact that they cater so well to multicultural audiences also causes people to continue to immigrate to New York. The city is a hub for many things that make it a sustainable place to live away from home, and food is an important part of this. People from around the world can move to New York while still staying connected to family, heritage and traditions from afar, oftentimes through food.

Let’s say someone is trying to make Picadillo de Chayote, a traditional Costa Rican recipe. Not to worry! We import Chayote year-round from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Looking to whip up some kimchi, a popular Korean dish? Not a problem, we carry napa cabbage from the United States and Canada to get you started. Looking for that familiar flavor of a sweet/dark red flesh dragon fruit? Look no further, because we can bring that here from Vietnam, Guatemala or Ecuador. Whether it be Apples or Zucchini, we’ve got you covered from A to Z with any kind of produce your heart (or taste buds!) could desire.

New York is a city of cultural diversity, and Katzman promotes this through the produce we import, buy and distribute throughout the city. We recognize that our role in the supply chain is vital to upholding New York City’s success as the cultural capital of the world, and this is an honor we don’t take lightly.

But you don’t need to be based in New York to make a multicultural impact. As a wholesaler/distributor, you could be based in a rural town, a small suburb, or a bustling city — your approach should still be the same. What matters the most is evaluating your customers and their audiences.

  • Are your customers currently serving a multicultural audience?
  • Is there an untapped multicultural audience that they could be better serving?
  • Which types of diverse, multicultural offerings could you suggest that would surprise and delight your customers and their shoppers?

No matter where you’re based, you can help promote culture, diversity, and multicultural offerings in your community. How can you promote it in yours?

Stefanie Katzman is Executive Vice President and fourth generation in the family business at S. Katzman Produce, a leading wholesaler/distributor of produce based in New York City. She works alongside her father, Stephen Katzman, who is President and Owner of the 100+ year-old business, which is SQF-certified, sources nationally and internationally, and provides a full range of fruits, vegetables, berries, specialties, services, and offerings throughout the United States. Stefanie is also co-owner of MamaMia Produce.



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