The year 2009 isn’t remembered as a particularly positive one for American businesses. Companies in practically every sector at the time were struggling to survive and making difficult choices such as laying off employees and reducing operations.
For a longstanding East Coast produce supplier, that year represented not an ending, but the beginning of a new venture that continues to grow. Dandrea Produce, a Vineland, N.J.-based produce grower and distributor took what it considers to be a natural step from the fruit and vegetable business into the world of wine importing. Dandrea has its own growing operations in New Jersey, North Carolina and Honduras, and runs import offices in 15 countries including Mexico, Spain, Peru, Chile and Argentina. The company, founded in 1917, is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year.
“One of our main items in the fruit category is grapes; that is the common link,” says Dan McCullough, general manager of Dandrea Wines, the company’s wine division. The international relationships Dandrea has built over the years allow Dandrea Wines the opportunity to locate and partner with little-known wine suppliers who are highly respected for their wines in their own countries.
“We are regarded as one of the most successful produce importers in the country; having that knowledge of importing produce gives our wine business a distinct advantage,” he adds.
Shortly after its formation, Dandrea Wines established ties with Agricola Gonzari Ltd., a Chilean winemaker, which produces the Folatre brand of wines. In 2010, the company finalized an agreement giving it the exclusive U.S. rights to import the Actum and Nodus brands, produced by Bodegas de Utiel of Spain.
The Folatre, Actum and Nodus brands are available in retail locations in New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut Massachusetts, West Virginia, Florida and Maine. Dandrea isn’t stopping there, however. The company anticipates significant growth for the rest of 2012 and “a quantum leap” in 2013 as it continues to expand its distribution network, McCullough says.
“Our mission is to look across the world for the best quality wine and present it to our customers at affordable prices,” he adds. “We realize we’re in a very fragile economy and while wine is a wonderful product, we understand it’s a luxury for many people. What’s key for us is finding exceptional wine and bringing it to market at a reasonable price.”
The wine division is the latest successful expansion for a business that has steadily grown since its founding in 1917 to become one of the largest vegetable growers and produce distributor in the United States.
Founder Frank Dandrea started the business with a 400-acre farm producing peaches and leafy vegetables he distributed to local retailers. Dandrea set up a cooperative with 15 other area farmers in the business’ early years, an arrangement that would later lead to the company entering distribution side of the business.
Frank Dandrea’s son Peter, who assumed control of the business in 1954 after his father’s death, further expanded the company’s growing operations in the United States and internationally. Under his stewardship, Dandrea expanded into blueberries, nectarines and summer vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers, cabbages, squashes and tomatoes.
Peter’s sons Frank, the company’s president, Steven, its vice president, and Ron, its secretary-treasurer, today lead the company.
After taking over in 1999, the three set out to expand through joint ventures and other investments. These new expansions included arrangements to import clementines from Spain and the establishment of a year-round program that includes citrus, grapes, stone fruit and asparagus.
Steven, Frank and Ron Dandrea’s children are now beginning to become involved in the company, representing its fourth generation.
“This business has been built on impeccable integrity, long standing relationships, outstanding associates and a great corporate vision into the future,” McCullough says.