A: It depends. It ranges from 250 to 450. I see that growing, but it’s like putting 10 pounds in a five-pound bag sometimes. Elimination comes into play.
Q: How do you make those tough choices?
A: Category management is one tool, but the end customer has to make the final decision. If they’re not buying it, then it’s time for it to go.
Q: What specialties do you see promise for?
A: A lot of things restaurants are using, like radicchio, are becoming more popular. People want more exotic side dishes, like portabella mushrooms.
Q: What emphasis does Roche Bros. put on value-added?
A: There are two kinds of value-added. There are things that are cut up and ready to eat, but there are also elements that add value to an item. If a customer buys a pound of strawberries and doesn’t have to throw any away, there’s added value in that. Even down to our buying process, we can add value to the consumer purchase by getting the premium product.
Q: How is your fresh-cut fruit program going?
A: We’ve had a program for about 8-10 years with a regional processor. It’s doing very well. Platters, not just the individual items, are doing well.
Q: What is your perspective on country of origin labeling?
A: It’s kind of scary. To add signage, verbiage or packaging to a product that’s going to take away from it’s natural visual appeal, that’s going the wrong direction. On the other hand, people should know where the product is coming from. It has to be non-excessive. For the bagged salad people, if they have radicchio coming from Italy, something else from Chile, they’ve got to change their film and that adds costs to the process. In the end, country of origin labeling could end up costing the consumer more. But if it’s done more moderately, it can be fair.
Q: Will Roche Bros. participate in voluntary labeling, before the rules take effect next October?
A: We plan to have a program in place months before we’re required to, to make sure it works.
Q: When did you start at Roche Bros.?
A: I started bagging groceries at 16 and then worked my way through the ranks. I joined the produce department in 1982 and haven’t looked back. It’s a great part of the business. It’s exciting. It’s colorful. Even today, I still learn things. I try to pass that passion on to my produce managers.
Q: What changes have you seen since you started?
A: The whole industry has changed. Going from a small section for bagged salads to a 30- or 40-foot case. It’s an amazing leap to see that happen in 15 years.