Archive for 'value-add'

The Role of Fruit & Veg In Our Society





I have discussed fresh produce pricing on a number of occasions – as those who visit here regularly will have noticed.

Well, I had an epiphany last week.  I think I have the answer to the problem of fresh produce pricing…

I was listening to the segment on National Radio where they rattle through the headlines from the New Zealand newspapers around the regions and one headline caught my ear – enough to make me look up the news item in question from the Dominion Post.

So, what are the issues again?

People need to eat fresh fruit and veg.  But the price of fresh produce is too high for people afford, so their health is at risk, according to nutritionists.

Growers need to make a living from growing and supplying fresh produce.  But the price of fresh produce is too low for them to do that, so their livelihood (and our food supply) is at risk, according to growers.

“Somebody” isn’t prepared to pay growers a high enough price for their produce and that “somebody” is being driven by the behaviour of the consumer.

So who is driving this consumer behaviour?  The influences are many and varied, ranging from the mother-in-law, the school, the mommy bloggers, the kids, nutritionists in the media, the consumer’s own perception and so on…

I’m going to stick my neck out here:

the glass ceiling for fresh produce prices exists to a large extent because people like nutritionists persist with pushing the idea that fruit & veg should be cheap!

Here’s my answer, then.

What needs to happen is that the fresh produce industry takes the nutritionists in hand and makes them understand the commercial realities of growing fruit & vegetables, so that the nutritionists’ ability to influence can be harnessed better in correctly position produce on the consumers’ plate.

Turners & Growers and the Potato Washing Debacle

By the early eighties, Foodtown had made some inroads into direct supply of green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, kumara and a number of other crops.  Kumara were in fact one of the early crops which were  100% directly supplied – by no other than the late Gary Blundell.  When it came to potatoes though, Foodtown had a bit of a problem.  One of my predecessors hat come back very enthusiastically  from PMA in the US, having been introduced to the concept of washed potatoes.  We might takes these for granted these days… but that was not the case 30 years ago! 

Foodtown, naturally, approached Turners & Growers, its potato supplier, to suggest that potato washing should get onto the company’s agenda.  The answer was somewhat surprising…”it could not be done”, said Turners & Growers.  The reason given was the soil condition in Pukekohe which would defeat any effort one could undertake to get potato washing under way.

Luckily, Foodtown chose not to take NO for an answer and started a conversation with a large potato grower in the area, A. S. Wilcox & Sons  and the ingenuity displayed by Lex, Henry and Ross Wilcox sure enough got washed potatoes onto Foodtown shelves within a year.  And they have remaind there ever since.  Direct from the source from Day 1 and no longer supplied by Turners & Growers. A further chink in the relationship….

To be continued

Hunting & Gathering The Modern Way

We might be a fairly sophisticated lot, us humans,  but there  are some basics facts in play, which apply regardless of where we live, of our gender, our age or our occupation.  I want to focus on just one of those facts for now; namely, the fact we need to eat.  And as we , at least in the OECD countries, lead relatively charmed lives these days.  We do not even need to make time for hunting and gathering in the traditional sense in our busy schedules… we are able to just go shopping.

h-and-g-lg-1a9km9uThe places where we tend to shop for food are typically single category stores such as bakeries, butcheries, delicatessen stores, open air markets and supermarkets.  Nobody makes us favour one over the other, nobody stops us from mixing and mingling, nobody says we need to shop daily, nobody stops from just shopping fortnightly and, most certainly, nobody prevents us from placing whatever we fancy into those shopping trolleys. Naturally, there are constraints, such as the depth of our wallet, our dietary needs, distance between store and home, our mode of transport; but those factors not withstanding, life is pretty easy.  Our mind articulates a need and hey presto, we are down at the store, meeting our mind’s request.  Wouldn’t you agree that there is a far higher degree of certainty to that model than there is to the traditional style hunting & gathering lark?

So, if we are in agreement of that, why is it that not one week goes by where one or other consumer group gripes about the price we have to pay for our food?  Not shopping is not compatible with the structure of the post-industrial age we live in. Period.  The provision of shops where we can hunt & gather in a style more appropriate to today’s society is therefore a value add offer in its own right, regardless of what type of shopping experience we choose and prefer.

I would like you to think about that last sentence a bit before you read on….

Food shopping outlet price comparisons are a dime a dozen.  Everywhere.  And they all follow the same model… Supermarkets get the bash for being too expensive, green grocers tend to be cheaper but possibly lack range and discount stores sit somewhere in between.  Right?

Well, wrong.

Channel 4 in the UK published a price survey,  at the end of January 2013.  It makes for entertaining reading.

Firstly, their survey was based on three items only; “everyday fruit & vegetable items” they called them.  I can accept that description for Broccoli.  Pears are not really an everyday item and Coriander most certainly is not.

Secondly, the survey was conducted in “32 locations across the country”.  Hm, given the population density of the UK, this is certainly not representative by a long shot.

Thirdly, and here is a new aspect for us here down under, the three categories sampled were a

  • large supermarket,
  • an independent trader (greengrocer)/ local market,
  • a convenience store version of the large supermarket.

Well, this is one for the books.  The penetration rate of these shoebox supermarket mini versions is now such that they come under the spotlight of the price nazis consumer rights media.

I shall leave you to read the survey results in your own good time but, for me, the issue boils down to this:  what price is reasonable for convenience?   We will pick that theme up again in a little while.





The Ingenious Fruit Seller

A few weeks ago I explored the Wynyard Quarter – one of the new areas of Auckland’s waterfront which has been revitalised and transformed for the public to enjoy. While wandering around I came across this customised fruit cart which immediately caught my eye.

This cart is no different to a typical roadside fruit seller – it’s the same mechanics and employs the same  principle – but this ingenious seller is not just selling fruit but has taken it one step further with the added value of selling fresh fruit kebabs. On top of that, this fruit cart also has brilliant marketing – a name we can relate to, eye-catching graphics and advertising and a website clearly displayed. That sort of stuff allows us to put value on fruit.

I observed a steady stream of customers, which shows it’s still easy to sell fruit and it doesn’t matter where you sell fruit you’ll always find someone who wants to buy it. Especially when it’s quality fruit at a quality outlet. I would definitely buy from here!

D.I.Y. the fresh produce way

Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised by any prepack produce idea, I came across a really nifty one:

DIY fresh guacamole!


While guacamole is readily available off the shelf in jars, this really must be the best solution for those who like their dips truly fresh and preservative free.

When is Superbowl Sunday again?

How about a prepack for salsa? 

Maybe just this once I’d allow a small appliance promo stand to appear in my produce department – after all, you’re going to need a blender to get the most out of this prepack concept!