During the holidays, 165 million U.S. consumers purchase food and beverages for the festive season. Since produce and fresh ingredients are most often vital for holiday meals, safely transporting these temperature-sensitive items, delivering them on time and in full, and keeping them freshly stocked on store shelves is crucial for food and beverage retailers. These, combined with holiday deadlines, present unique challenges for buyers and shippers alike.
Mark Petersen, vice president of temperature controlled transportation at C.H. Robinson, and myself recently sat down with Talking Logistics host Adrian Gonzalez to discuss consumer holiday shopping trends and expectations and how they impact the fresh produce supply chain.
Consumer confidence is key to spending during the holiday season
Many analysts are saying consumers are feeling good this year due to low unemployment and regular job postings. And people tend to spend more when confidence is high, which is good for food and beverage retailers.
Healthy eating is now a year-round affair
Increases in fresh and perishable goods indicate consumers are thinking more about healthy eating all year long, not just for their year-end resolutions. According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 80% of cardiovascular disease (America’s most prevalent chronic disease) could be prevented via a healthy diet and lifestyle. This means increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is paramount to overall good health. This especially rings true during the New Year when people set goals to make healthier food choices for the following year. And rather than just having one traditional sit-down meal, many people host or attend several holiday gatherings. These events often include smaller meals with many unique fresh ingredients.
Consumers demand particular items for their holiday dishes
During other times of the year, shoppers will often substitute an out-of-stock produce item with another that is readily available. However, during the holidays, a special family recipe may call for a fresh product that can’t be replaced with another. Cranberries, for example, which can’t be easily substituted in a favorite holiday sauce, see a 1,729% increase in sales during the holidays. Sweet potatoes and yams see a 359% increase, and green beans see a 195% increase in demand. It is more important than ever to have the goods in stock and on the shelves for the holidays. If consumers can’t find the product they are looking for, they will likely shop elsewhere.
Creating a seamless shopping experience
Omnichannel is one of the biggest topics when it comes to convenience for shoppers. Online grocery shopping (mobile and digital) is expected to triple in the next five years, with up to 70% of grocery shopping to be done online. But it’s more than just ecommerce; omnichannel creates a seamless shopping experience across all touchpoints. Suppliers must be thinking about how to provide a positive shipping and delivery experience for their customers.
Flexible and consistent delivery schedules
The likelihood of something going wrong over the holidays is much higher in temperature controlled shipping than other times of the year. That’s generally due to increased demand in product combined with a decrease in available capacity causing short term disruptions in supply chains.
Produce retailers may be limited for space or want less inventory on-hand, while still needing the freshest product. Retailers may require more frequent deliveries as opposed to truckload, and for products to be held closer to stores. And with retail consolidation programs as well as regulatory compliance, such as sanitary transportation of food (STF), becoming more complex, it’s important to work with a supply chain expert with the knowledge needed to meet these requirements.
Watch the full video for additional insights into preparing your fresh produce supply chain for the unique challenges of the holiday season. Robinson Fresh, the leader in fresh produce, can help you navigate the turbulent holiday market with our global suite of services, including insights, innovation, and marketing. Our dedicated team of experts understand on time in full requirements and can add much-needed cold chain logistics expertise to your supply chain. Our customers often see a 7-10% reduction in their supply chain costs.
Connect with one of our supply chain experts today. Happy holidays!