This is an excerpt from the October issue of Produce Retailer. For the full version, visit ProduceRetailer.com.
The bottom line for the Defense Commissary Agency is a profit beyond dollars and cents.
The 2012 Produce Retailer of the Year provides an essential benefit to active and retired military personnel with 247 locations and 18,000 employees worldwide. DeCA Commissaries, a part of the Department of Defense, have been around for more than 150 years. In that time they’ve grown far beyond essentials.
The agency’s focus is delivering a “21st Century Commissary Benefit” to the military community, says Kate Reeb, vice president of sales for Los Angeles-based Coast Produce Co., a DeCA produce contractor. Defense Commissary AgencyDavid Kryniski, produce category buyer, left, and Bridget Bennett, produce category manager, right, help lead the Defense Commissary Agency's produce team.
“It is so much more than delivering fresh fruits and vegetables to the commissaries,” Reeb says. “It is about supplying the best quality, the best prices, with the best service for the people who give so much for our country’s freedom.”
Produce is supplied through contractors, who provide merchandising support and help build relationships with the grower-shipper-marketer community.
“We love working with DeCA because they are willing to try new things, new items and will build a nice display to get the product in front of their customers,” says Chuck Sinks, vice president of sales for Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit Co. “Whenever we have a contest with DeCA, we get great support and they build fantastic displays.”
Those creative displays translate to sales. Howard Nager, vice president of sales for Yakima-based Domex Superfresh Growers says he’s seen double-digit sales growth from innovative displays and cross-promotions through DeCA programs.
“They love the opportunity to get creative,” Nager says.
And that creativity and dedication is often recognized in the industry. To date, seven DeCA produce managers have been selected for the United Fresh Produce Association Retail Produce Manager Awards, one of whom was selected as a grand prize winner, says Victoria Backer, senior vice president of member services for the Washington, D.C.-based association.
Commissaries play a special role in ensuring access to high-quality fruits and vegetables for military families, Backer says.
“This is evident in the pride and passion the past winners have showcased,” she says. “Not only do they build beautifully merchandised displays that wow their customers, they also play an active role in helping their communities.”