The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer sent a letter to suppliers May 29 outlining the deadline schedule. The letter describes the PTI requirement as part of Wal-Mart’s heightened focus on the quality of its fresh produce, which also includes a new money-back guarantee for consumers.
“These efforts are designed to create a transparency in the supply chain so our customers can be confident in the freshness of the produce,” according to the letter.
The requirement applies to products shipped only to distribution centers, not directly to individual stores.
Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club Inc. will be enforcing the deadline schedule at U.S. stores. The schedule includes a grace period. Suppliers must begin using PTI compliant labels by Nov. 1, or their products will be marked as received but “out of spec” unless Wal-Mart has issued an exemption to the supplier.
“We will work with suppliers who are making a good faith effort towards standard case labels,” the Wal-Mart letter states.
Effective Jan. 1, produce received at distribution centers without PTI-compliant case labels “will be rejected as out of spec unless an active exception has been issued by the buyer prior to delivery,” according to the letter.
Leaders from PTI and other produce industry groups said the Wal-Mart requirement is good news for the industry at large. They said other retailers will probably follow suit.
“Other large retailers are working on this in some form or fashion,” said Ed Treacy, vice president for supply chain efficiencies at the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., and member of the PTI leadership council.
“I think it will make the most difference with mid-sized and smaller retailers, though. If there are any on the fence I’m sure this will give them a push.”
Dan Vache, vice president for supply chain management for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., agreed with Treacy’s assessment.
“This announcement will definitely move the PTI needle for the entire industry,” Vache said. “Regional retailers and wholesalers have been waiting for a national buy-side organization to move forward with the PTI to add weight to their requests for PTI labeled produce cases.”