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Web addresses now are appearing on packages of lettuce and mushrooms. Does this mean that the produce industry has accepted the Internet as a viable mode of communication with the consumer?

And if so, is this affecting the way that suppliers and growers are doing business with their customers, the retailers? Some 8 months ago, B.T. Produce, a produce wholesaler at Hunts Point Terminal Market in Bronx, NY, established its own Web site, Here browsers can access B.T. Produce's history and company information, place orders with the company, indicate whether it wants to sell to B.T. Produce, and leave a message. Broswers also can connect to related sites for further information about produce and the industry.

"We know that in the future our customers are going to end up shopping on the Internet," says David Taubenfeld. For Taubenfeld, one of the owners of B.T. Produce, this is no longer speculation; the Internet will be a force in commerce.

"We are already calling our supplier/grower in California from whom we buy peaches, plums, nectarines, and he describes his produce sizes and prices to us over the telephone. After a discussion, we may buy some of the produce," says Taubenfeld.

But the Web site can go a step further. "That same supplier could put photos of his products on the Web site with a detailed description, including prices," Taubenfeld says. "Taken further, certain buyers could be given password-protected access to additional information in the site."

Enthusiastic about his new marketing tool, David Taubenfeld exclaims that so far the Web site has been "very successful." B.T. Produce has made connections with people as a result of the site and has gained some new suppliers.

Taubenfeld believes that the Chinese and Korean mom & pop stores in Manhattan will be particularly apt to buy on line. The company has built much of its business around these stores because B.T. Produce specializes in Asian pears and persimmons.

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