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Going back to produce 101, we know about transition, temperature requirements, shelf life, and a general overview of how to use produce in menus and the nutritional value they provide.  However, if I can give you one secret to building a successful produce program, it is to take a step back from these details. So much of this is standard issue for the industry, product has to be fresh, delivered on time, and meet certain safety standards. However, if you are looking to take things to the next level, don’t solely focus on product features and benefits that a supplier is promising you, but focus on who the supplier is, how they do their work, and their strategy to build your business.  If you have the right partner, the details of product spec, sourcing, food safety, shipping will fall into place – because a supplier who is committed to their customers, product safety and quality, and seeking out innovative processes is a supplier who will take care of these basic details and then go the extra mile for their customer.

Let’s take a look at the not-so-obvious features and benefits of a produce supplier that will help you build a robust produce program that will ride out the ups-and-downs of the industry.

Focus on What you Need

In our everyday lives we enjoy so much variety and gone are the days of going to a store and being confined to their current inventory.  If we enjoy this type of purchasing freedom at home, shouldn’t we also enjoy it in our produce buying?

The same can be true for your produce with some distributors providing a set catalogue of items from which their customers can choose.  There is so much that fresh produce growers and producers can offer.  When working with the right partner, your options can open up for a Japanese sweet potato, or a pink lemon that you want and have it prepared to your spec.

Focus on a Sourcing Partner

From the idea of purchasing what you need, the next challenge is finding what you need.  It may be that a buyer purchases across multiple categories and not just one, which adds the challenge of maintaining multiple, industry specific networks.  That is where working with a team on purchasing, you can tap into their specific networks and connections to find that specialty item or grower who can cut and pack to your exact spec. 

Focus on the Logistics

Purchasing isn’t just finding the produce that fits your needs, but it is also shipping it where you need.  We’ve seen high rates with freight on top of knowing which carriers you should and shouldn’t work with.  And depending on where your purchasing lies in the supply chain, you may need to work through produce distributors for local delivery. The right freight partner will be able to guide on all of the above.

The biggest reason produce purchasing can go from selection from a fixed catalogue to purchasing based on need is because of consolidation.  This allows less than load purchases, truck optimization, and delivery schedules that keep product in a better rotation cycle.  Having a freight partner that offers consolidation is a great step in a needs-based approach.  Having a freight partner with sourcing capabilities is that much better.

Focus on your Partnerships

In the end, the world moves and keeps going round because of relationships.  Who you work with in your business can make or break you.  When you look at your partnerships throughout the supply chain and know these partnerships have the networks, expertise, strategy and commitment to you, product quality will follow.  But that only works with the right partnership, one built on confidence and reliability.