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Thank you to those working on the frontlines in our industry.

Trends that will Endure

By Nick Pasculli

Since the shelter in place order was issued, I find myself doing a great deal of reading in the evenings and on weekends. I recently read an article in Advertising Age Magazine that discusses 5 Consumers Trends that will endure after COVID-19. These trends are very relevant to business and I want to share some insights I have had after reading the article.

It is remarkable how the U.S. population has so readily and instinctively changed behavior in ways that will likely have lasting implications for brands. With these changes there are opportunities but also cautions for marketers, and we are all marketers.

 “When there are serious changes in lifestyle and life circumstances, there is a fairly dramatic change in preferences for brands that consumers use, and their perceptions about those brands,” says Peter Noel Murry, who runs his own consumer psychology practice in New York.

As we plan for the future, we might do well to consider the following trends from Advertising Age, which experts expect to outlive COVID-19.

1. Time-tested brands will shine
As consumers change to adopt new behaviors and habits, they’re sticking by the brands they’ve long trusted to get them through and beyond the crisis. There will be a change from “novel and trendy” to “tried and true” will make it difficult for new brands to launch in this environment. The older brands/companies that have been around a long time have built the emotional brand equity up over generations.

2. DIY gains ground
Consumers are using their time at home to learn new skills, like cooking (pay attention Produce Companies), baking gardening and many more DIY activities. Food purchasing in the last two week has far exceeded typical Thanksgiving shopping. Bottom line is that we are going to see more people become self-reliant. This could forever change the restaurant and hospitality industry. Recently I attended a webinar and one of the speakers suggested that the restaurant industry may only recover to about 75-80% of what it was prior to the pandemic.


3. Comfort with digital offerings

As media and research companies adjust from live events to virtual ones, so are consumers adjusting to digitizing their behavior. Some demographics, like older consumers who may have been unconformable are quickly adapting to making on-line purchases, especially for groceries and other necessities. Once they fall into a new routine  and get used to the ease of delivery at their door it may be hard pressed to return to brick-and-mortar, experts say. Think about the implications for the construction industry and even supermarkets. The medical industry is not immune to the change, especially as services like Teledoc become more accessible. If you didn’t think telemedicine was here to stay, think again. 

4. Flexible work arrangements
Many expect the current situation of so many Americans working from home will lead to a dramatic shift into more flexible  work arrangements as employers realize it’s not necessary to have everyone in the office to get things done. Employers may find significant benefits to employees working at home, not to mention the need for less office space, thus reducing overhead costs like rent and utilities. 

5. Safety wins over privacy
While consumers have grown more protective of their privacy and personal data in recent years, experts say that is changing during the current crisis. Many are deferring to the government and those in leadership positions to keep them safe even if it means giving up on their own privacy in the process. (I don’t know about you, but this trend makes me uncomfortable)





Read more from FreshXpert, Nick Pasculli, on the TMD Blog.

by Ron Pelger

The "Masters" of selling

Produce salespeople today should learn to understand produce department merchandising in order to be a "Master Sales Rep".

Sales representatives of growers and shippers will need to understand produce merchandising strategies in order to communicate and step up to the higher levels of retailers today. The old-fashioned traditional “way it always was done” approach by salespeople just doesn’t work anymore. Produce executives and buyers don’t have the time to get tied up with chitchatting sales reps.

An executive of a large retail chain recently told me, “My buyers are all burned out. Salespeople are always lined up in the lobby, which is fine. But most of them take up our valuable time with a long-winded selling campaign. They simply turn what could be a good item into a loser by talking too much and not understanding our means of merchandising. This turns us off which shuts down items they are attempting to sell. The buyers are spending time doing what they dislike rather than what they do like. We just don’t have the time to explain to them why we set our displays specific ways.”

Most salespeople are trying hard to get their foot in the retailer’s doors. However, a single foot isn’t enough anymore. It takes the strength of two feet nowadays. It now requires a “master sales rep” to chalk up big numbers in this fast-paced produce industry.

A degree in marketing is not enough these days to make a master sales rep. In fact, it may only make a mediocre one. Understanding marketing is one qualification —— understanding merchandising is the other important requirement now.

Here are a couple of questions for all produce industry salespeople:

Can you go to a supermarket right now and set up the produce department from scratch? Do you know all of the produce merchandising strategies? Are you aware of the different display methods for profit mix? What is the No. 1 display spot? Where do you place wing displays? What is their purpose?

Do you realize how much of a difference it would make if a sales rep understood the fundamentals of setting up a produce department? He or she could probably sell countless truckloads of produce without batting an eye.

Produce buyers would like to see more master sales reps who actually use their time and energy selling their product line with an understanding of produce merchandising methods.

We are all inundated with doing more with less time to spare. Buyers do not have the luxury of time explaining to salespeople about how new items need to fit into the produce display layout.  

Simply trying to sell product — as was the case in the 1980s and ’90s — is too slow for produce retailers. Taking up a lot of time by passing out brochures, showing Power Point presentations or trying to explain a bar graph doesn’t cut it anymore. These mediocre reps will falter on the majority of their sales calls.

It takes a fired-up person to be a master sales rep who can radiate competence to everyone around him or her. The master sales reps who have the knowledge of produce merchandising and marketing combined will turn out to be top performers.

If you call on produce retailers, you better be a master sales rep today and know at least the basics of how to set up a produce department.

"The things we fear most in organizations--fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances--are the primary sources of creativity."

Margaret J. Wheatley

In Season: Market Memo

Update 4-20-2020

Produce Markets and Promotion Activity:
Produce prices are lower as we see less demand in the foodservice sector due to the coronavirus.  We are seeing the demand for retail up higher than normal as people are eating more at home. Foodservice demand will eventually come back as summertime approaches.  We have Cinco De Mayo and Mother’s Day on the horizon.  Those two events usually are big for foodservice but look for at home cooking to take precedence for promotions in retail.  Make sure to have plenty of avocados, limes, strawberries, cilantro, green onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, and other chiles available.  If you need help with promotion pricing or supplies, please contact your FreshXpert.
 


Transportation Update:
Transportation supply is adequate to plentiful depending on the lane.  Rates are lower due to the coronavirus lowering demand for foodservice and other dry goods.  Some transportation companies that normally haul dry goods to retail have switched to hauling refrigerated goods.  This has given our industry excess capacity but should be short lived.  Normally truck rates are starting to increase during this time period but this year is the opposite.  We expect low rates through mid-May and then increasing by June 1.  FreshXperts can help with all your logistical needs.

~Paul Grothe

Xpert Update: Social Media Group

FreshXpert Anthony Totta started a Facebook group, Produce Pros, in 2008. Recently, the public group has been gaining members and viewers. 
Group Description states, "This group is for anyone in the fresh fruit and vegetable business. We want to build a fellowship of produce professionals." To be an encouragement and inspiration to those currently working on produce department floors, post focus is on MERCHANDISERS. Those posting are encouraged to include photos of produce department displays--made recently or in the past. 

To visit, click https://www.facebook.com/groups/producepros/ or seach Produce Pros when in facebook.

What a great platform to encourage this segment of our industry.

Want to share other groups you know that area supporting areas of our industry? Email the link to info@freshxperts.com.
Suggested Reading

ProduceBusiness, Don Harris, "Balanced Pricing", February 2020
TMD Blog, Nick Pasculli, "Positively Looking Forward Together", April 2020
SmartBrief, LaRae Quy, "How to be resilient and grow from your trauma", April 2020
The MX Group, Kellie DeLeon, "Covid-19 Six Things B2B Marketers Can Do Now", March 2020

FreshXperts is a consortium of consultants in the fresh industry. 
Experts in all aspects of the fresh industry–from Farm to Fork
Growers - Retailers - Distributors
Logistics - Foodservice -
Start Ups & New Ventures

For more information about our member FreshXperts, visit our team page
http://freshxperts.com/overview/the-freshxperts/
Anthony Totta: CEO; Business and Brand Development Specialist
Tim Vaux: Executive Leadership Specialist
Eric Bosveld: M&A; Agro-Economics Specialist
Phil Pisciotta: Local and Wholesale Distribution Specialist
Ron Pelger: Retail Operations Specialist
Jennifer Lawson: Administration, Information Design
Paul Grothe: Foodservice Procurement Specialist
Nick Pasculli: PR & Marketing
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