Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

I jolted awake from a brief siesta to find Russ T. Blade sitting cross-legged on my desk, thumbing through the new 2014 copy of The Packer’s annual Produce Market Guide. ‘Rusty,’ as regular readers know, is the imaginary miniature produce manager who occasionally drops in to chat.

Rusty: Sorry to disturb you, sleepyhead. When did you get the new Produce Market Guide?

Me: Uh … what? Hey … It arrived today. Why? Anything pique your interest there?

Rusty: Well, this is good stuff: Each major commodity is listed with an overview. That’s great for produce managers like me. Each one is listed alphabetically.

Me: Yeah? Is that different from years past?

Rusty: A little. In previous years they had similar information, but this edition has a catchier format. Look at the avocado page: Here’s five display tips, five sales strategies … hmm … Here are five foodservice tips for the culinary brothers and sisters. Looks like someone’s trying to put you out of business, bro!

Me: Yeah, yeah. This is good reading. Not just for buyers and specialists, but for the retail rank and file. I like this. Look, there’s a heading called “Five Things to Know about Avocados” and an explanation how the fruit is trending.

Rusty: Great stuff. Especially when my crew is talking shop with the customers. I can envision copying the nutrition facts from the page to attach to secondary display signs.

Me: I also like the fact that it lists handling and storage tips.

Rusty: There’s plenty for both the merchandiser and produce manager to chew on here. How about the “Get Connected” corner? With associated websites. Even this old produce dude knows how to access the Net, you know.

Me: Ah yes. That reminds me of, of …

Rusty: Turn to page 298. Remind you of Mark Zeller? Your old produce pal from King Soopers? It should. This page lists all the major trade associations.

Me: I used to visit his store, years before he became the produce director. He was tops all right. He didn’t wait for supervisors to send offers for display contests or for point-of-sale material.

Rusty: Remember how he called the trade associations directly and they sent him all sorts of sales banners, cut-outs, high-graphic signs? Z-Man was ahead of the game.

Me: Mark actually put the resources to use. I bet he found the info in The Guide back then, too.

Rusty: I bet he didn’t fall asleep at his desk, either.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.

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