After years of working in the produce industry, our partners had the idea that there are many wonderful grower / processors in the produce space that may need a boost to their presence in the market-place. That is what started Fresh Avenue, a team that would work alongside growers to increase awareness and sales of their produce.
This is still one of our many passions and services we offer, and have built a multi-faceted organization that not only brings customers more value with direct connection to these great growers, but adding shipping and consolidation services to make sure the produce buying process is easily navigable. This value only feeds back to the growers we work with as it brings more connection, infrastructure, and resources to the produce they are growing.
We caught up with our Director of Supply Chain and Logistics, Brian Rooney, to learn more about the unique advantage Fresh Avenue brings to grower / processors.
Q. Tell us a little about the Fresh Avenue team’s connection to growers.
Part of what makes the produce industry so dynamic are the many paths one can take to accomplish goals or meet customers’ needs. So from a Fresh Avenue standpoint, our entire team is engaged in the process of finding great producers. Some of those searches are easy as we already have long standing relationships while others take some investigative work. Either way it’s invigorating to work on a new project with an old friend or develop a new relationship working on behalf of a customer in developing their new offering. I think that’s one of the things that fuels the passion we have for this business! The rapid evolution of supply chains, customer needs, consumer preferences also lead us to constantly keep our eye on new up-and-comers on the producer side. This helps everyone jump on the product lifecycle curve at the perfect moment.
Q. What is one of the big advantages the growers Fresh Avenue works with brings to customers?
One the most talked about trends in supply chain management over the past year is the ability to flex up or down as the demand cycle changes. It’s become deeper than just reacting to a change order from a customer when they call. The companies that can anticipate demand signal changes are better insulated from the start/stop nature of the pandemic. This type of nimbleness is something the pandemic brought front and center, but this flexibility is not a trend for us and has always been part of our team’s DNA. During the pandemic, it allowed us to meet the new needs that our growers and customers had, and it’s an area we are constantly working on improving.
Q. Flexibility is great, but what do you do to keep things in balance to deliver the greatest efficiencies?
There’s nothing a customer wants more than a company that says yes, without a laundry list of disclaimers. That famous saying applies… “It’s produce” …….so there are always some variables, but transparency and good communication always help. One of my goals each day is getting our team in a position to say “yes” to the customer and have the operation and processes in place to execute at a high level from both a service and efficiency standpoint. This takes buy-in from the field all the way to the sales team, and when you can repeat and sustain that performance, you build confidence from all stakeholders which drives new opportunities. It’s very difficult to do an “if then” work-flow for every possible scenario that comes up in the fresh space, but we are always brainstorming, charting the asks that come in the most frequently, and building capabilities into how we carry those things out. This structure helps producers see a path to market, and helps customers see a path to new items, or untapped bases of supply. Most importantly, we have to come in every day, and REPEAT.
Q. This all sounds really great… but how can you make this all happen?
Bottom line: we have a great group of people that make up a great team working together for a set of common goals.
How the Pandemic Tested Links in the Produce Supply Chain
2020 was a year to be reckoned with and in many ways put the produce supply chain to the test. Learn more about what we observed and did during this time to make sure our links stayed strong.