Making a Modern Fresh Produce Supply Chain

Making a Modern Fresh Produce Supply Chain

If you’re in the fresh produce business, you know that promotions, new products, and updated shelving helps attract customers and keep them interested. You want your produce experts to be talking to customers while keeping your inventory fully stocked and rotated. But if your store is spending most of its time on things outside of this, you could be missing the chance to focus on what’s most important such as fresh inventory, promotions, and customer interaction.

The modern fresh produce consumer

It’s no secret that consumers’ expectations are changing across the entire retail landscape. Consumers have convenience and immediate access to almost all products top of mind. More and more shoppers are taking advantage of services like online ordering, parking lot pickup, and home delivery. For fresh produce, this introduces special challenges in ensuring that product remains ripe, high-quality, and accessible, no matter where or when a shopper might choose to buy.

Gaps in modern produce supply chains

Today’s produce supply chains can be very complex. Your supply chain must move faster than your inventory, but trying to continuously meet changing consumer demands (while also driving growth) can result in missed opportunities to manage cost and drive efficiency. For example:

  • Produce managers might spend much of their time trying to consolidate as many perishable orders as possible.
  • Corporate offices could be interested in driving efficiency and standardized ordering procedures.
  • Individual locations may be focused on getting accurate commodities sales data for their specific ordering needs.

The result is a broken supply chain: suboptimal product mixes with inaccurate quantities, shipments arriving late to your produce section, too many fruits and vegetables going bad, resulting in increased shrink, or product coming to the store not matching the requested requirements. It’s wasted time and duplicated effort; neither you nor your shoppers are getting quite what they’re looking for, but it seems just as difficult to figure out where things are going wrong. Does this ring a bell?

In this kind of environment, how can retailers begin to optimize their fresh supply chain to get the right produce to their shoppers at the right place and the right time?

Change your thinking on produce procurement

It all starts with a paradigm shift: don’t expect your employees to be supply chain experts.

When shopper demands mean more produce SKUs in fewer quantities, having visibility to your entire supply chain and inventory is vital to matching shipment timing with the right sales windows. You have to think beyond product-level management; fortunately, that’s where a sourcing and supply chain specialist’s expertise comes into play.

In addition to abundant high-quality produce, 3PLs like C.H. Robinson can also offer Managed Procurement Services. Examining the whole end-to-end pipeline of your fresh produce model, they’ll look at every aspect holistically to see how changes in certain areas or processes would lead to changes in others. The best solutions are unique to each retailer’s produce needs, but they all result in standardized ordering, helping ensure that the puzzle pieces of warehousing, pick and pack, procurement, transportation, and consolidation all fit together cleanly to lead to lower costs, less work, less shrink, and more desirable fruits and vegetables.

By bringing in an outside perspective to evaluate your fresh supply chain, you can benefit from years of produce industry knowledge to help optimize your stocks as soon as consumer demand changes. That makes for real results: fewer expenses, faster product turns, better business intelligence, smarter ordering, more precise timing, and happier shoppers.

In my next blog, I’ll take a look at some of the exciting ways technology is changing the fresh produce supply chain for all kinds of stores.

For more information on how we combine technology, expertise, and impactful logistics solutions to reduce your fresh supply chain’s cost and complexity, connect with an expert today. On average, our customers see a 7–10% reduction in their supply chain costs.

Todd Bernitt

Todd Bernitt - Vice President of Managed Services for Robinson Fresh

Todd has worked for C.H. Robinson for the past 23 years. In that time he has held multiple positions in numerous areas of the company—from truckload to intermodal and most recently Sourcing. As Vice President of Managed Services for Robinson Fresh, Todd manages strategic direction, resource allocation, and technology to meet the demands of foodservice customers and suppliers. Todd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Business Administration from Illinois State University.

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