leading the way to results for fresh food marketing

In this Issue:

by Ron Pelger

Adapt to superior produce operating standards

Did you ever wonder why people shop for produce at your competitor’s store? Is their produce any better than yours? Your competition most likely has comparable product and prices as you do. However, if they have a “great” produce department and yours is just mediocre, where do you think people will shop for their fruits and vegetables?
An exceptional produce department is one of the most decisive reasons for customers in choosing a grocery store to do their regular shopping. The store with the freshest and most impressive produce department will draw the most shoppers every time. In order to be the main focal point for customers, produce calls for specific operating skills in order to stay above the competition.
Here are some basic operating reminders for an exceptional produce department:
Generate Sales: The produce team must have the desire to sell and be in direct contact with customers when on the sales floor. Employees should answer questions and make friendly suggestions for incremental sales.
Sales Planning and Layouts: Establish plans for advertised items and determine the amounts needed. Decide locations for ad item displays. Follow a regular department plan-o-gram layout. Set up a massive visual entrance display for impulse sales.
Ordering and Checking Deliveries: Inventory all backroom amounts before writing an actual order. Check inbound deliveries for proper weight, count, quality, condition, and temperature. Move sensitive items into the storage cooler immediately and date all cartons. Segregate vegetables and fruit. Remove lids from bananas and tomatoes and cross stack for ventilation.
Product Preparation: Handle all produce with respect. Follow a regular “crisping program.” Use safe trimming and washing practices. Use proper tools, equipment, and packaging material. Follow your company packaging and labeling guidelines. Adhere to all food handling safety regulations and company policies.
Prevent Shrink: Insure all retails are correct. Check systems for item, code, and retail accuracy. Control back room inventory assets. Don’t stockpile. Watch load levels by avoiding over-piling product on displays. Handle all products carefully to prevent damage. Display bananas one layer only – do not stack bunches.
Workmanship: Whether it’s the backroom or the sales floor, every area should be fresh, clean, neat, organized, and appealing — especially displays for customers.
Culling and Rotation: Cull entire department first thing in the morning. Use two totes when culling – one for items to be discarded and one for items to be reworked (re-trimmed, re-packaged, etc.). Check expiration dates on packages. Rotate displays by removing older product, filling with new, and restocking the removed product on top. Use back room product with oldest dates first.
Scheduling: Produce departments need to be ready for business early. Always consider store hours, deliveries, holidays, days off, vacation periods, time of season, weather, and special promotions.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Keep fixtures, equipment, tools, and floors clean and sanitized. Check refrigeration cases and cooler temperatures daily. Report equipment failures immediately.
Closing Hours: Get ready for the next day by stocking hard goods such as potatoes, onions, apples, citrus, etc. the evening before. Remove sensitive items and place in cooler. Clean and tone up the department before leaving.
Of course, these are only a few of the overall operating standards that determine a well-managed produce department. There is more to just ordering produce and placing it on a display. It takes well thought-out planning, determination, and skilled workmanship to be the best produce operator in the marketplace.

Xpert Update

Press Release: New FreshXperts member

Dan Avakian

“I’ve always promoted the enjoyment of fresh fruit and vegetables before the nutrition with the notion that if people experience the enjoyment first then the nutrition will naturally follow”

FreshXperts is excited to announce the addition of Dan Avakian, aka "Dan the Produce Man", to the FreshXperts team.
Dan Avakian is a Produce Industry Consultant and Media Promotor based in the San Francisco Bay area.

"I have known Dan for the past 12 years. He has an unending knowledge of every fruit and vegetable growing. Dan's experience and expertise is in "selling produce" in the trenches. He has a wealth of talent in the video media field explaining and teaching about individual produce items. Dan will be a tremendous value for our FreshXperts team as well as for the industry."   ~Ron Pelger

Learn more about Dan


Follow Dan on


Dan has enjoyed over four decades in many facets of the fresh produce industry starting out at an open-air market in 1976. Since that time, he has worked on several projects for many produce and grocery companies and owned his own award-winning produce market in his hometown of Alameda California. He has also enjoyed an extensive career in broadcasting and has put the two together to promote fresh produce on radio, television, and the internet. Dan’s mission is to help make top quality produce a major part of Americans diets.

Dan's Focus and Areas of Expertise include:
  • Media Promotions
  • Retail Merchandising
  • Quality Assurance
  • Operations
  • Wholesale Sales
  • Foodservice Distribution
  • Home and Office Delivery
  • CSA Programs
  • Produce Boxes
  • Training and Mentoring
  • Columnist
His experience includes:
  • Over 40 years in fresh produce in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Owner Manger, CEO of a Multi Award-Winning Independent Produce Market
  • Farm relations liaison
  • Sales to restaurants and institutions
  • Senior buyer of organic produce and natural groceries
  • Production and distribution manager for an Organic produce home delivery company
  • Quality Assurance manager
  • Produce Manager. Trainer. Mentor.
  • Talk Show host; Expert Guest for TV and radio shows
  • Host: Getting Fresh with Dan the Produce Man--You Tube and other social media platforms.

 In Season: Market Memo

May 19, 2020
Produce Markets and Promotion Activity:
Markets have started to stabilize as the country tries to get the economy back up and running. As we entered May we saw a strong retail pull for Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. As weather improves and the country starts to open again, we will see stronger markets.  Foodservice will start to recover but it will be a long struggle to get back to normal. We expect pricing to remain steady to slightly higher and growers have good supplies. Retailers should focus on Memorial Day promotions for family barbecues and fresh summer fruits.  June will still be a time of celebrating graduations and Father’s Day. Promote fresh corn, tree fruit such as apricots, pears, nectarines, and plums.  Of course, fresh strawberries are always good as summer starts. Contact your FreshXpert for the latest promotional supplies and contracts.

Transportation Update:
As we enter late May and early June, the transportation market has change quite drastically. Supplies are lower and truck rates are up. There is a lack of back haul opportunities in the east and mid-west, therefore more trucks are not able to get a load back to the west coast. In California, growers are seeing their normal rise in production but with less trucks to move the volume. Expect rates to rise in June and even higher in July. The Midwest meat suppliers are forecasted for less production through August so we will see this back-haul challenge through the middle of summer. Once we see more production of various goods on the east coast and Midwest, we expect rates to come down and truck supplies get back to normal but don’t really know when that will happen. FreshXperts will keep you posted and can help with all your logistics needs.

~Paul Grothe

Commentary--Anthony Totta

Farmers to Families USDA Program
I remain skeptical of the $1.2 billion disbursements and its subsequent feeding frenzy. As always, intentions seem well-meaning but the result could possibly disrupt and cause more injuries than benefits. Just saying it is something to consider. Early awarded contracts processed hundreds of thousands of boxes bypassing our industry's proven supply chain channels, PACA oversight, and our well-developed food safety protocols over a brief period of time is pretty concerning to me.

Behavior Changes are a Certainty

by Nicholas M. Pasculli

an article excerpt,  click to read entire article.

Click to visit Nck's blog

 Beyond a shadow of a doubt, over the last two (+) months COVID-19 is dramatically changing both consumer and business behaviors. Undoubtedly (and perhaps sadly), some of those behavior changes will continue for a long time, possibly even after the defeat of this novel coronavirus. These new behaviors will likely become permanent the longer they are in place. With this pandemic, the primary human emotion at play is fear. The prominence of fear in our society accelerates and embeds the new behaviors we are seeing in people.

Our companies need to think about how the COVID-19 crisis will change our society’s long-term social interactions, industry events, personal relationships, and what products and services will people gravitate towards in the "new" post-COVID-19 world.

How can you implement a proactive approach in the Post COVID-19 World? Knowing your marketplace/customer/consumer needs as well as your competitors is always the best way to meet market demands....This is especially true in the produce industry as consumers make choices. The challenge is to meet the consumers in their new state-of-mind.

Three important steps you can to implement now:

  • Debrief
  • Gather Insight
  • Re-Plan

 It is important to not forget that your customers buy VALUE, and value comes from meeting their needs, which comes from understanding their needs, in words and actions. Focus on providing value, and revenue and profit will take care of itself.

The question going forward for many of us is, when will customers come back? But even more important and more under your control is, what will you need to deliver differently in terms of product or service, features and benefits?

Business Impacts we might expect Post-COVID-19

Continue to Article

Ask the Xpert

Q: Should I consider adding produce boxes to my offerings?
A: Several of our FreshXperts have worked with clients--growers, distributors, and retailers-- who have created produce box programs. Although it is important to evaluate your goals and place in the market, our members see opportunity for many of our clients that warrant investigation and implementation of a produce box program--well before and beyond the current USDA Farm to Families program. Our Xperts encourage growers, wholesalers, and retailers to look beyond the present and develop a business plan and strategy for a sustainable future.
Suggested Reading

Produce Blue Book, USDA approves $1.2 billion in contracts for Farmers to Families Food Box Program, May 8, 2020.
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, "USDA Farmers to Family Food Box", April 2020.
AndNowUKnow, ...Farmers to Family Food Box Program-PMA comment, May 11, 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
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
Dan Avakian: Media; Food Safety
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