It may be a different story for grower-packer-shippers, said Ed Odron, owner of Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting, Stockton, Calif.
“Whether they’re selling in San Francisco or to Winco, the produce is still moving through the stores,” he said.
Five or 10 years ago, he said the major retailers each had a piece of the market. As more chains moved into Northern California and without large population growth, each piece of the pie has shrunk.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult for those supermarkets to maintain their margins,” he said.
But independents — particularly those that fill a niche, such as ethnic grocers serving Hispanic and Asian populations — seem somewhat isolated from the fray and appear to be holding their own, he said.
“You walk into those stores, stuff’s piled up and they seem to be doing a lot of business,” Odron said. “I don’t know if Fresh & Easy, Winco and Walmart are affecting the independents as much.”
Others that offer specialty items, such as Berkeley Bowl, or are known for service, such as Woodland, Calif.-based Nugget Markets, also are doing well.
“I think like everything else, the good survive,” Odron said. “I think the key issue is you have to continue to give your customers some basic quality, customer service and price.”