The Packer’s National Editor chatted on Aug. 16 with Bruce Peterson, interim chief executive officer of Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga., and president of Bentonville, Ark.-based Peterson Insights Inc. Read the entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.
9:45 a.m. Tom Karst: I often hear “people have got to eat.” True of course. But how do you think produce marketing has changed during/after the recession?
9:48 a.m. Bruce Peterson: Price is playing a bigger role than ever and consumers are being very careful on purchases that they consider “discretionary.” Keep in mind that about 80% of all produce purchases have been made on impulse and consumers are less inclined to be impulsive. So the value proposition has to be clearly articulated and executed at store level.
9:50 a.m. Karst: Bruce, I don’t know if you saw this discussion, but I posed a question to the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group recently, asking who they thought was the most influential produce personality in the past 30 years. The discussion is ongoing, but several mentioned your name. How does it make you feel when people consider you as perhaps the most influential produce professional of your time?
9:55 a.m. Peterson: I was very flattered, but really, I’ve always received too much credit. I happened to be at Wal-Mart at a time of the most aggressive growth time in the history of the grocery industry. And don’t forget that I was fortunate to be able to work with people like Dick Spezzano, Bob Summers, Bob DiPiazza, Bryan Silbermann, Grant Hunt, and so many other great produce professionals that I learned far more from than I offered. Just call it being in the right place at the right time. And don’t forget that I was also fortunate that Wal-Mart allowed me to participate at the industry level. We were much more transparent. You might remember that every year, we met with all the folks at The Packer (in Kansas City) and did a Q&A for several hours! And you guys weren’t bashful about the questions you asked!
9:59 a.m. Karst: True. One more question I’m sure people are interested in, and that deals with RPCs in the produce industry. You were, I believe, a proponent of Wal-Mart’s move to RPCs. Not speaking for Wal-Mart, but do you think in general that RPCs can be a solution for retailers and shippers now in the same way you envisioned some years ago? I hope that makes sense.
10:04 a.m. Peterson: It does make sense, and let me answer it this way: It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to provide a system solution, it makes as much sense today as it always has. But if your objectives change, then it may not make any sense.