Superior product, sound environmental practices ring strongly for Peri & Sons
May 09, 2007
by Lora Abcarian
CHICAGO -- Representatives from Peri & Sons Farms Inc., based in Yerington, NV, took advantage of floor space at the 2007 United Fresh Produce Association's Fresh Marketplace trade show, here, to tell visitors about exciting new developments at the company.
Peri & Sons began its operations in 1979, and today the family-owned company grows premium white, yellow, red and sweet onions at its 1,800- acre operation.
Talking about the trade show, Director of Marketing Tim Cummings said, "Our primary focus at Peri & Sons is promoting our sweet onion. We are here to talk to retail partners about [the trademarked] 'Sweetie Sweet.' "
Mr. Cummings said that the onion is a growing success, and redesigned packages featuring "Sweetie Sweet" will hit the marketplace soon. The upgraded packages also integrate new sweet onion recipes, which will provide consumers with interesting dishes to try at home.
"We're basically updating the entire Peri & Sons image," he said.
"We want to educate consumers about the differences between onions," Mr. Cummings told The Produce News.
He said that newly designed point-of-sale material is being made available at the retail level to educate shoppers and help retailers with product sales. Both conventional and organic onions are grown and marketed by Peri & Sons, and the company places strong emphasis on earth-friendly farming practices for its growing operations.
"We focus on environmentally safe production methods," Mr. Cummings stated. As a result, product has received Nutri-Clean certification, meaning that onions are certified 100 percent pesticide-free. Additionally, the company is GAP and GMP certified.
For the third year in a row, the company has earned a "Superior" food safety rating awarded by auditor Scientific Certification Systems. Mr. Cummings said that public awareness about food-safety issues continues to grow, and the company's policy of going green during the past 20 years means that Peri & Sons is ahead of the curve.
This year, Mr. Cummings said that the company is working to create a 12- month onion program. To keep farming and production standards high, Mr. Cummings said that Peri & Sons will source all its onions domestically, rather than rely on imports.
"This gives us control," Mr. Cummings said. "We want everything grown to be pure and clean."
Currently, all production acreage is located in Nevada, but Mr. Cummings said that Peri & Sons would expand its operations in other states in the near future.
Peri & Sons is also increasing the amount of organic acreage it intends to plant in the coming years. There are currently several hundred acres are under organic production.
In addition to its emphasis on premium product produced with environmentally responsible practices, Peri & Sons has just upgraded its partnership with CHEP to implement an electronic data interchange system to make its pallet-reporting program more efficient. The system is designed to help save labor and reduce cycle times.
Peri & Sons is now shipping its product on CHEP pallets to supermarkets and foodservice distributors throughout the United States. The pallets are designed to help reduce product damage during distribution.
"Peri & Sons is the latest major grower to see significant financial and customer service benefits from the CHEP program," said Tim Smith of CHEP USA.
IN THE TRENCHES: Customers decide industry winners and losers
May 09, 2007
by Ron Pelger
Is your customer focus faltering? Has it lost steam lately? Then you had better pay attention.
Have you ever had a day when suddenly the company apple cart tilts and totally collapses? That is called a crisis, and that is when we all run over to the cart, stare at it, then have a meeting to discuss how to fix it.
There is only one problem: After the meeting, everyone begins concentrating on apple carts and only apple carts.
Whenever a new directive is launched from management that demands immediate action on a specific topic, we tend to drop whatever else we are doing to spend countless hours, days and months working diligently on that one specific item. That task then becomes our sole priority and everything else is put on hold, including customers.
The moment a crisis occurs in a company or the industry, objectives are changed to just fit that particular issue. Everyone prioritizes his or her work activities to that single event.
The food-safety issues of the past several months have placed a great strain on the produce industry by forcing it to spend time fixing the problems. Meanwhile, the time-consuming efforts caused somewhat of a perilous slide with a major sales partner: the customer.
By all means, food safety and security are extremely important issues that must have maximum attention during these challenging times. Most companies and industry-level organizations have done a marvelous job addressing the subject. The United Fresh Produce Association, Produce Marketing Association, Western Growers Association and other groups have devoted considerable time and effort to satisfy food safety and food security needs.
The food-safety issue is just one priority task that companies place on their staffs. How about subjects like shrink, inventory levels and productivity? If the subject is a sanitation program, everyone centers his or her priority on cleanliness. If it is about a new sign program, the attention is on getting it in place. If it is about a company restructuring, the focus is on engineering it.
Often times when specific programs are the main objective, people become so wrapped up in the program that they lose sight of sales and customers. Eventually, the outcome can be devastating to a company's bottom line.
Sometimes putting the emphasis on a specific program can affect other areas. Take for instance a shrink program. Let's say a company president sends out a directive to reduce produce shrink by 2 percent. Immediately, a company draws up a plan that includes a laundry list of 101 ways to lower shrink. Everybody from the warehouse inspector to the front-end cashier concentrates on nothing but shrink. All employees eat, drink, sleep, walk and talk shrink. Shrink now becomes the new customer.
So, what would a shrink program be without controlling inventory? After all, decreasing back-room inventory assets will eliminate some shrink. If a company does not have the product around, it won't shrink. It's that simple. If all you do is stress keeping inventory stock down, what do you think will happen next? You got it: out-of-stocks. And you cannot sell what you do not have on hand.
While the shrink number may have been lowered, sales have suffered as a result. Before you know it, the enthusiasm and incentive to build big, dramatic displays turns into a conservative two-layer produce department. And anyone can tell you that shopping from flat displays does not excite customers.
Should we not spend time on food safety and security? We should indeed. Is it wrong to have a shrink program and target a savings? Certainly not.
The fact of the matter is that companies should not put aside customers and only observe a crisis or management demand program. All have to be balanced and performed simultaneously keeping sales and the customer in mind.
This point should apply to all levels of the produce industry, not just retail. From farms to suppliers, customer focus should never be lacking or slipping. Today's customers are different. The practice of doing business with them has dramatically changed. They want to be recognized and want solid intelligent answers to their questions without wasting time. Your job is to meet their needs.
Extensive company changes are in the works today. In many cases, new management from mergers or acquisitions is being forced to make modifications within their company structure. Along with these modifications comes the usual downsizing, which translates to employee multitasking. This too could place a threat on customer focus.
Another factor that could lure a company away from its customers is concentrating profusely on the competition. Watching, copying and trying to keep pace with the competition while shifting focus away from the customer will always put a firm at risk.
In order for a company to grow in today's fast-paced business world, it must work on its key objectives without losing a grip on customers.
Now, get out in the trenches. Talk to the customers and watch them buy your product. But get there before your competition does.
(Ron Pelger is the owner of RONPROCON, a consulting firm for the produce industry. He can be reached by phone at 775/853-7056, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check his web site at www.power-produce.com.)