Do You “Get” Produce? Why Non-Traditional Seasons Spell Big Opportunities for Retail RDs
Looking for a way to impact your retailer’s bottom line? Think outside the “seasonal” box by understanding global supply dynamics and embracing non-traditional seasons. You’ll position yourself as a retail RD who “gets it” while carving out a unique opportunity to support the success of the produce department.
How do retailers meet the consumer demand for year-round fresh produce availability?
Today, consumers expect to find the fresh produce items they love on the shelves every day. By tapping into the global distribution chain, retailers are able to meet this demand. For many produce items, this means there are two or more “seasons” that flow together to make for year-round supply. Consider table grapes. Domestically grown grapes are “in season” approximately June through December, but what about the rest of the year? Table grapes from Chile and Mexico are “in season” January through May, and by bringing in grapes from these regions during this “non-traditional” season, shoppers can enjoy grapes every day. The same goes for blueberries, peaches and dozens of other items in your produce department. Don’t think of these as “in season” or “out of season.” They are complementary seasons that allow you to satisfy customer needs.
How do complementary seasons affect mango supplies?
A quick look at mango seasonality reveals a year-round flow. Mexico dominates the U.S. mango market from March to September. During the other five months of the year, mangos are available from South America. Starting in September, we’ll see mangos first from Brazil, then Ecuador and finally from Peru. These sources provide the mango supply throughout the fall and winter months, wrapping up in February. Although the volumes are much higher during the spring and summer, these fall and winter crops provide good volumes of delicious mangos.
What is the value of promoting a produce item during a “non-traditional” season?
There is an opportunity for retail RDs to support these lower volume produce, or “non-traditional” seasons as a new opportunity to promote and grow a particular category. While prices may be higher and volumes may be lower, your shoppers still want these items, and by periodically promoting them, you can help satisfy that need.
Perhaps the greatest value of supporting a non-traditional season is that it keeps your customers coming back for that item year round. When you can maintain shopper enthusiasm and shelf space for an item year-round, you can avoid the constant struggle of bringing shoppers back to an item after it’s been missing from the shelves.
What has the greatest impact on the produce supply?
Generally the greatest factor that impacts availability is the weather. Unlike packaged goods, which can generally be cranked out from a factory year-round, Mother Nature makes a constant impact on the fresh produce supply chain. Weather issues can cause a crop to harvest early or late. It can cause the crop to be significantly larger or smaller than is typical, as well as impact quality for better or for worse.
A great example of this is the current situation in the mango crop. Due to the “El Niño” weather phenomenon, Ecuador’s mango crop is expected to begin production a few weeks later than normal. This fruit is typically available for shoppers in the U.S. in November and early December. If this crop revelation occurs, we may have a shortage of mangos in November. The situation would reverse in December when Ecuador’s mangos finally hit our market about the same time that Peru’s mangos arrive. Usually, these two countries flow one after the other. This year, there’s a possibility they will overlap resulting in an abundance of mangos in December. To promote mangos during the holiday season, the National Mango Board created a resource for retailers and consumers with festive holiday recipes featuring mangos: www.mango.org/MerryAndBright.
How can retail RDs capitalize on over-supply situations to benefit the retailer’s bottom line?
Many retail RDs have the opportunity to influence promotions and take advantage of supply opportunities in a very nimble way. Let your produce team know you can help during over-supply situations—get to your produce buyers and category managers. They would be crazy not to take you up on the offer. When supplies are strong, especially when that bounty is outside the normal flow of the crop, work with the stores to build big, beautiful displays. Include that item in your social media, blog posts and newsletter articles with appropriate seasonal recipes featuring that item. Look for ways to sample the item and let customers see that the fruit or vegetable is delicious. Include the item in your store tours or cooking classes.