The world’s biggest retailer announced in May that all fresh produce delivered to Wal-Mart distribution centers would be required to have standardized case labels, consistent with Produce Traceability Initiative best practices, starting Nov. 1. Furthermore, the retailer said it would reject noncompliant loads as out of spec starting Jan. 1.
So it’s no surprise that companies that supply traceability solutions noticed a jump in sales during the second half of last year.
“Until Wal-Mart made its announcement in May, things had been quiet,” said Todd Baggett, chief executive officer of RedLine Solutions, Santa Clara, Calif. “People had kind of forgotten about PTI because no other big retailers had made an announcement about it. We saw a bump. It started in June, and we got more and more interest. By September and October, we had a lot of Wal-Mart suppliers coming to us. A lot of people were concerned about missing the November deadline.”
Baggett said RedLine implemented 40 to 50 new traceability systems, some for customers with more than one location, late in the year. That includes the massive deal RedLine struck with the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association to supply a uniform traceability solution for its members.
Baggett said RedLine implemented PTI programs for roughly 25 Wisconsin companies, concentrating on those with year-round programs so that they could meet Wal-Mart’s November and January deadlines. Baggett said RedLine had about 50 smaller Wisconsin growers, who are not currently shipping, that remain to be taken care of before their 2014 season begins.
Baggett is scheduled to present a traceability session and PTI update to WPVGA members Feb. 4 during the group’s meeting in Stevens Point, Wis.
Meanwhile, Los Gatos, Calif.-based FoodLink also secured some new business late in 2013, none bigger than Dole Fresh Vegetables, Monterey, Calif.
“We’ll be doing all the tracking for Dole Fresh Vegetables,” said chief marketing officer Kevin Brooks. “It’s our largest customer yet. It’s a big story for us. We had a surge of business late in the year. We had a lot of people who had been kicking the tires and thinking about PTI who finally get off the bench.”
Other new traceability customers for FoodLink include Dulcinea Farms LLC, Ladera Ranch, Calif.; Frontera Produce Ltd., Edinburg, Texas; Gourmet Trading Co., Los Angeles; NewStar Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas, Calif.; and Sun Belle Inc., Schiller Park, Ill.
“Wal-Mart certainly contributes to demand,” Brooks said of the surge of PTI-related business, “but a lot of these companies already were on that path. Better information is starting to be seen as something that can help growers and shippers take better control of their supply chain and their brand. Clearly, Wal-Mart is moving this forward, and other retailers are starting to embrace it.”