What’s a summer gathering without a stack of watermelon slices? Can you even consider it a Memorial Day cookout if there isn’t a platter of grilled corn on the cob? Is a Fourth of July picnic as sweet if a bowl of fresh berries isn’t included in the spread? Everyone has a favorite summer holiday/fresh produce pairing. And it’s for good reason: from Memorial Day through Labor Day, all kinds of fruits and vegetables are coming into peak season.
This means there is increased demand by consumers and more pressure on fresh supply chains. While some may see summer as a season of fresh produce logistics hurdles—like timing deliveries to match up with produce promotions for the summer holidays, for example—there are a few key steps you can take to help ensure you don’t miss out on sales as your shoppers purchase their favorite produce items.
Let’s take a look at what it might look like to properly plan a fresh supply chain program during the summer surge. We’ve used watermelon as an example, but these solutions can be applied to any fruit and vegetable supply chain that is in high demand during peak seasonal periods.
4 ways to prepare for summer surges
1. Work with a network of growers
For a consistent supply of watermelons, it’s a good idea to work with several watermelon growers across the country. Watermelon is a nomadic crop with harvest times varying by location. Typically, the first U.S. watermelons of the season come from Florida and Texas in April. As the season progresses, the harvest moves in waves from Georgia and Arizona to California, Arkansas, and South Carolina, and then through Midwestern and Northern climates. Working with multiple growers can give you access to more supply while reducing the risk of a single growing location, which can create serious problems for your promotions.
Another thing to consider is the potential summer weather issues that could impact supply. For example, if you work with only a single grower in Florida and a storm wipes out their watermelon crop, you might not have a backup option. This is why having a network of growers is important.
2. Work with vendors that offer multiple solutions
The likelihood of something going wrong with your fresh supply chain during summer surges can be high. But since you can’t know what will go wrong, you need to have backup relationships and solutions across the board. It’s always best to be as proactive as possible when it comes to fresh supply chains. If you’re forced to react to an outside challenge, a company’s ability to build a multi-pronged supply chain solution in advance of issues could mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major shortage of product and plunging sales.
3. Transportation relationships can make all the difference
Strong relationships can help you meet—and even exceed—customer expectations and support your agile supply chain—one that can swiftly adjust to quickly-changing conditions, whether they’re anticipated or not. Working with a third party logistics provider (3PL) can help you identify and solve capacity shortages and support continuous improvement to create consistency in both supply and execution. A grower-shipper can help forecast accurate lead times; stay in constant communication with you about crops, fill rates, and correct product availability; and help gauge if melons from particular regions will be coming earlier or later than anticipated from the field, keeping you updated on any changes.
4. If you fail to plan, plan to fail
Use this year’s summer surge as an opportunity to improve your fresh supply chains for the future. Completing a quality analysis of your summer holiday supply chain can go a long way toward making next year’s summer surge planning even better. After the season wraps up, take the time to analyze what worked well and what didn’t work at all, and then take action to change as necessary. Work with suppliers that exhibit advanced skills in category management expertise and your planning will be that much more effective.
If you’d like to learn more about how to plan for surges, connect with one of our experts. Also, read our blog post on handling a fresh supply chain during the winter holiday season. I hope you are enjoying the start of summer and all of your favorite produce!