That includes research on varieties that fit consumer preferences for flavor, size, consistency and availability.
Although he didn’t mention the recent tomato suspension agreement that sets higher floor prices for Mexican tomatoes entering the U.S. — including a specific category for protected culture — De La Cruz’s comments highlight the shift to greenhouse- and shadehouse-grown tomatoes in Mexico.
Field-grown tomatoes have seen a 68% erosion in market share in less than a decade, and those gassed green tomatoes won’t be getting that market back, he said.
Look for more protected culture items in the produce department, including personal watermelons, leafy greens and berries ... and yes, even onions, at some point.
De La Cruz also spoke briefly about Wal-Mart, which recently announced several initiatives involving fresh produce suppliers. The company is focusing on a “100% money-back guarantee” for fresh produce satisfaction, is shifting 80% of fruit and vegetable purchases to a direct-buy model and is requiring all suppliers to establish the Produce Traceability Initiative at their companies.
Suppliers are no doubt scrambling to find out where they are in the PTI process, and companies that continue to sell to Wal-Mart must look at this as a learning process.
“If you deal with Wal-Mart as a supplier successfully, it will make you a better company,” he said. “The question is, do you leverage those best practices with your other customers? If you don’t, you’ve lost the benefit of the advantage you should gain as having Wal-Mart as a customer.”
Wal-Mart supplier or not, companies must prepare for PTI compliance, even though it is a voluntary program.
“It will become a barrier to business if you don’t have that in place,” De La Cruz said.
He’s right. At some point, companies that cling to the notion that PTI is not mandatory will find they’re losing retail customers.
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