With the goal of maximizing the sales and saliency of fresh fruits and vegetables in the grocery retail space, PMA’s 2019 Retail thinkTANK, an invitation-only meeting held just prior to the sold-out 2019 Fresh Connections: Retail
event, created the environment to forge stronger relationships and connections. The meeting allowed participants to use creative thinking and collaboration to address industry issues, strengthen relationships and ideate solutions. Here are the key takeaways from the discussions:
The importance of respect and relationships in the produce industry cannot be overstated, whether it be with supply chain partners or consumers. Relationships can be cultivated and strengthened through open communication and collaboration.
High-touch relationships fuel business deals. While technology increases productivity and efficiency, it also contributes to a loss of direct communication within the industry. Just having a spreadsheet relationship is not good enough for many in the produce industry. So even while opportunities exist through the many industry meetings and events that take place, there aren’t enough high-touch relationships and conversations with candor between retailers and suppliers. There remains a strong desire for the “handshake & the hug” relationship.
While it’s common to misread the value of a call versus bothering people, there is a need to have verbal conversations in addition to texts, although it was acknowledged that it is difficult to find time to talk. But it’s also a good idea to communicate how you want your supply chain partners to communicate with you (ex: call; text; call & text; in person), so tell them - and ask them how they want you to communicate with them.
Collaborating and supporting each other so everybody succeeds
While retailers face challenges such as marketing to consumers and getting them to try new products, suppliers also face challenges championing their products, and they are committed to seeing their customers win. They understand many of the retail challenges and want to help where they can. The discussions revealed that opportunities exist on both ends to help fully drive sales growth.
Talent as a competitive advantage
The discussion turned to the importance of hiring and developing great people as well as tapping into passion and sense of urgency in younger generations. While there is a long list of skills and attributes that a great employee possesses, some of the top skills and attributes identified during the discussion included:
1) Executive maturity – people who can speak & communicate to all levels
2) Strong work ethic
3) Strong communication skills
4) Team focus
5) Customer service focus
6) Hustle, drive, passion, commitment and a competitive spirit - all skills associated with athletes
But maybe one of the most important skills is the ability to establish a human connection. One of the ways companies can differentiate themselves is with great people. Our thinkTANK facilitator Kevin Coupe shared how every Peloton bike owner he knows has a favorite instructor, and wondered “How many retailers have those people in their stores?” While Kevin wondered specifically about retail, the sentiment is applicable to every company.
Food for thought
1. Don’t confuse excitement with chaos.
2. Execute your program, and don’t chase others’ programs.
3. Serve the people in your community to differentiate your company in your community.
4. At retail, replace candy with fresh produce at end cap before the checkout.
5. While there is great respect and warmth throughout the industry, there is a strong desire for open and honest conversations among all parties.
6. No great product = no customers.
7. Hire someone you’d want to be your boss. You may be working for him or her someday.
Special thanks to the 2019 Retail thinkTANK participants
Minos Athanassiadis, HarvestMark
Mike Brady, Wakefern
Jeff Cady, Tops Markets, Inc.
Bobby Creel, L & M
Anthony DeAngelis, Christopher Ranch LLC
Mike Downey, Military Produce Group
Mattie Leid, Hess Brothers
John McCann, Del Monte Fresh Produce
Charles Muranaka, Muranaka Farm, Inc.
Paul Newstead, Domex
Abby Prior, BrightFarms
Reade Sievert, Associated Wholesale Grocers
Leslie Simmons, Dave’s Specialty Imports
Ricky Stover, C.R. England
Fred Valentino, RJO Produce Marketing
Rob Ybarra, Coborn’s Inc.
Kevin Zirkle, Military Produce Group
And thanks to our facilitator – Kevin Coupe, MorningNewsBeat.com.