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Someone once told me, “Don’t try to be all things to all people.”

Well, that never went over too well with me, especially when it came to produce variety. I always wanted to handle every item, every size and every pack that was available in the industry. Some called me a “produce variety freak.” Every new item a sales representative introduced to me was welcomed with open arms into the system.

As new produce items continued to enter the scene and warehouse slots became snug, this drew phone calls from buyers waving a white flag at me. One buyer told me they had reached a saturation point for space and begged for my mercy.Auxiliary-extenders-to-relieve-the-squeezeWhile an increased number of SKUs in the produce department has the potential to increase sales, produce directors need to analyze the data when choosing which items to carry and how much space to devote to them.

I always felt that we should offer a number of choices and options to our customers. Many produce directors feel that same way today. However, the warehouse and department space is beginning to burst at the seams. As more and more new items and packs are introduced, display territory is getting lean. What’s more, it gets costly to manage all the product choices.

According to the Food Marketing Institute, between 1975 and 2008 the number of items in a supermarket grew from an average of 8,948 to 47,000. A portion of that growth was experienced in the produce department. That created the need for much larger supermarkets.

The size of produce departments was a large part of that expansion and it became necessary to monitor the variety expansion. Most retailers feel that an increased number of items leads to more sales. That may be true in a way, but not always. Some of the best-selling items can feel the squeeze, too.

Jay Schneider, director of produce for Acme Markets in Malvern, PA, said, “We have to play the percentages. There is a lot of item innovation with the risk of taking away territory from proven items that sell in existing space. Take packaged salads for example. The top five SKUs in terms of dollar contribution have not changed much over the past five years. Maybe some have gone from number two to number four, but the main blends still hold the biggest percentage of sales. New items continue to come and go. Companies want to get more new items in, but we are faced with sacrificing space on established items of high-velocity sales to accommodate those new items. It all comes down to the basic items that are the real drivers of the business.”

Jeff Tomassetti, produce/floral director for Buehler’s, Wooster, OH, added, “We are getting bombarded with new items. The world is changing along with consumer buying. If we don’t change, we will lose market share. As we bring in new items to test and they perform positively, we have to decide what items are trending down and cut that space to make room for those items that trend more favorable.”

New items do increase growth and offer customers more choice. But there are also growing pain complications that go along with constantly adding more new items to the overall mix. The difficulty lies in “shelf strain” for the produce department. Lots of neat variety piled on top of an already neat variety.

The produce shelves are becoming quite cramped with produce SKUs averaging approximately 1,000 items. We already rectified tight space relief by the inclusion of side wings, waterfall extensions and free-standing aisle displays. It’s like the old saying of trying to put 10 pounds in a five-pound bag.

Trying to slip in a new item or two becomes a huge force upon produce directors. It’s all about shelf management and shelf discipline.

Here are some tips to help manage the crunch:

  • True profitability: Don’t just consider the item, consider the profitability of it. Allocate space based on the item’s profit.
  • Apply shelf management: Make use of data. Check item sales dollars sorted from best to least productive. Then make a decision to stock or not.
  • Examine your sizes: If you handle 140-size lemons, do you need a 75-size too? Manage it. Downsizing is part of controlling item saturation.
  • Just say, no: Never be shy to make that decision when it calls for it. But before saying it, take into account every detail and information first to support that decision.

It still all comes down to managing the business, and properly utilizing data is vital. Knowing what sells and what sits is the reality. Get yourself into the real world by recognizing the true profitability of each item in the produce department. Then take a closer look at your gross profit commitment. That is really the bottom line demand of upper management.

Wegmans has been named one of the 2018 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, according to global research and consulting firm Great Place to Work and Fortune. This year marks the 21st anniversary of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list.  Wegmans has been on the list every year, and this year ranks No. 2.wegmans

The list is based on survey responses from more than 310,000 employees rating their workplace culture on 50-plus elements of the workplace. These include trust in managers, compensation, fairness, camaraderie and workplace traits linked to innovation. The ranking accounted for the experiences of all employees across all demographics.

According to the Great Place to Work, the 2018 winners continue to show that a high-trust culture for all fuels better business results. Their research shows that “list winners keep outperforming the stock market, beating industry rivals when it comes to talent retention and demonstrating higher levels of productivity than peers.”

President and Chief Executive Officer Colleen Wegman said, “When we see our company near the top of this list we feel pride, but also tremendous gratitude for our people who make Wegmans a special place to work and shop for all.  Customers often say how much they appreciate our employees for making Wegmans such a happy place.  We thank each of our employees for this honor and celebrate with them and our customers.”

“The 2018 100 Best are true leaders,” said Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. “In the face of competition, change, and financial constraints, they consistently prioritize building the trust, pride, and camaraderie that fuels business performance. And they’re doing it at scale for everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do for the organization.”

Wegmans is now hiring for new stores set to open in Natick, MA, in April; Chantilly, VA, in June, and Lancaster, PA, in early fall 2018. 

Wegmans also was ranked as a Best Workplace for Diversity, Women, Parents, Millennials and was ranked No. 1 on the list of Best Workplaces in Retail by Great Place to Work and Fortune.

On Feb. 5, Catania Worldwide, headquartered in Mississauga, ON, was fully operational in its new Catania New Jersey facility. The 40,000-square-foot facility is in Vineland, in the heart of the state’s agricultural district.

Company President Paul Catania said one of the major services the company is offering in Vineland is storage.P19Paul Catania Jr. flanked by staff members on the packingline. Photo by Paco Baeza.

“There is a demand for storage facilities in the area, and our operation will be of great benefit to the industry,” he said. “We will have four separate coolers with a 1,600-pallet capacity, triple-racked. We can store different products at individual temperatures in the coolers, which gives us an edge in servicing many different customers and their commodities. It is truly customer-specific storage.”

The facility’s services also include repacking for grade and condition, and restyling for various consumer packs, including trays, clamshells and bags. It is outfitted with a bagging machine for various fruits by weight. It will also provide QC inspection services.

Catania Worldwide was founded in 1929 by Michael Leonard Catania, who was the first man to import lettuce into Canada in the wintertime. In 1946, Paul Catania Sr. joined the company. Together they cultivated relationships, many of which still exist today. In 1975, Paul Catania Jr. joined his father in the business.

The family-run company maintains its small-business charm and integrity while leading an international group of companies to remain at the top of the field. Today, Catania Worldwide comprises M.L. Catania Canada, Stellar Distributing, Catania Mexico, Maple Leaf Ranch and now Catania New Jersey.

“The New Jersey facility gives us good coverage along the U.S Eastern Seaboard,” said Catania. “Stellar Distributing in California is already well established in the west and east, and is heavily into the wholesale markets. Submerging ourselves in the wholesale and retail markets will also be the goal for the New Jersey operation.”

Working from an empty building, much like a blank canvas, Catania’s vision for the New Jersey facility came to life.

Catania designed the facility from the knowledge he gained through his work experience. He started from scratch and built a facility that enables efficient functioning in all departments. He designed it to the specifications and needs of not only the Catania companies, but also for the customers it will service. From the inspection, receiving and shipping, coolers and storage, to placement of the bagging machine, the facility was carefully designed to allow efficiencies and quality in all services it provides.

“I worked in conjunction with an industry expert food-safety adviser to help facilitate plans for the facility,” he explained. “It enables us to be productive and to better service our customers.”

The company’s expectations for the new facility is for it to be a fully independent profit center. The long-term goals include building a presence and building customer relations.

Sales, storage and production will be the major focus at Catania New Jersey, all under the oversite of Dan Carapella, general manager.

“We will expand our commodity mix there and have full control over the commodities, from the soil in which they are planted to consumers’ tables,” said Catania. “Ensuring quality is our top priority.”

He added that Catania New Jersey will help the company to project its produce line, the services it can offer and where it can offer them. It will maintain the same quality-control standards that Catania Worldwide has established.

“We believe that one-on-one relationships are crucial to our success, and especially to our clients’ businesses,” stressed Catania. “From our farmers and shippers to retailers’ shelves, every step of the process is carefully monitored and executed. We know the taste of success, and it comes from working hand-in-hand with our employees and our clients to ensure that the finest fruit products are grown, packaged, shipped and, of course, sold.”

H‑E‑B, one of the nation's leading independent food retailers, announced that Favor Delivery, an innovative on‑demand delivery service headquartered in Austin, TX, will become a wholly owned subsidiary. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.heb

With this partnership, H‑E‑B accelerates its path to become a digital retail industry leader in Texas, enabling customers to choose how they shop, pay for and receive products. The partnership also complements H‑E‑B's brick‑and‑mortar operations by growing its online presence to meet customers' evolving needs and expectations.

Favor will continue to operate independently as a separate brand led by Chief Executive Officer and President Jag Bath. H‑E‑B will retain all of Favor's employees and its 50,000 runners, who operate as contract delivery drivers.

"I am thrilled to have H‑E‑B join forces with another well‑respected and innovative Texas company," said Martin Otto, H‑E‑B's chief operating officer. "We share similar values, including a commitment to excellence in customer service and to our greatest resource – our people. Over the past two years, we have established a strong working relationship with Favor that has proven to be immensely successful for both companies. We see a unique opportunity with this partnership to support and accelerate each other's growth through the sharing of experience, insight and resources."

Founded in 2013, Favor has quickly expanded its presence to 50 cities across the state of Texas, where it is currently the best-rated delivery service. In 2017, Favor more than doubled its footprint across the state and became one of the first U.S. on-demand delivery companies to achieve profitability at scale.

"We could not be more excited to be part of H‑E‑B," said Bath. "I am incredibly proud of our team's success and the business we have built at Favor. H‑E‑B's extensive resources, capital and retail food industry experience will enable us to further build on our momentum and significantly accelerate our growth throughout Texas."

With Favor, H‑E‑B gains access to best‑in‑class consumer‑facing technology and the on‑demand company's advanced delivery system. H‑E‑B will also leverage Favor's data‑driven approach to capture valuable insights to deliver the best customer experience possible.

This transaction is the latest in a series of strategic investments in technology and partnerships that H‑E‑B has forged to enhance its digital and delivery offerings in Texas. Home grocery delivery is already a key pillar of its offering through HEBtoYou. H‑E‑B also already offers customers the convenience of "Curbside Pickup" at over 100 stores, a service that enables customers to order online and have their groceries delivered right to their cars, and HEB.com offers customers the ability to order and ship grocery, drugstore and general merchandise products to 48 states and military bases worldwide.

 

Florida-grown produce will be promoted in Subway’s nearly 1,500 Florida locations. Running through April, Subway restaurants will feature “Fresh From Florida” advertising and marketing materials highlighting Subway’s commitment to sourcing locally grown Florida cucumbers, green peppers and tomatoes during local growing seasons.subway

“Florida’s hard-working farmers make it easy for everyone to enjoy fresh, local produce any time of the year,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “I’m proud to partner with one of Florida’s largest restaurant chains to highlight the availability and affordability of ‘Fresh From Florida’ products across the state.”

Last year, Subway purchased more than 74 million pounds of Florida-grown tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers.

The “Fresh From Florida” partnership highlights Subway’s commitment to sourcing Florida produce, and locations in the following cities will feature advertising and marketing materials: Tallahassee, Orlando, Panama City, Gainesville, Miami, Ft. Myers, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville.