I look on the wall and I see a framed copy of my first column for The Packer, (given to me a long time ago by Bill O’Neill) published in the fall of 1987 about the pending apple crop. I don’t think I wrote the headline, which optimistically offered that there were “bushels of opportunity in ’87.” I suggested in the Crops & Market column that selling the 60 million carton fresh crop in Washington state would be no downhill ride. Some 26 years later, Washington apple marketers barely break a sweat with 130 million fresh market cartons. Again, I’m dating myself.
An e-mailed news release that rolled into my inbox (again, that didn’t happen in 1984) describes how Black Gold Farms recently hosted five food bloggers at their farm in Arbyrd, Mo. Bringing food bloggers to the farm sounds like a winning approach to reach consumers through new media and electronic “impressions.” The release said the bloggers who participated had a collective reach of more than 249,000 followers. I notice a trend here; blogger was not a word in 1984; the term weblog was coined in 1997.
A Washington apple marketer sent me a link to Chipotle’s animated “ad.”
It is pretty stunning as animations go and is surprisingly anti-establishment for a mass market restaurant with more than 1,400 locations. And yes, the first Chipotle was opened in 1993 – nine years after my first day at Vance.
Did Safeway kick-start the trend of retailers demanding third party audits for produce suppliers? As I’ve talked to several food safety professionals and retail observers this week, one recalled the day when Safeway made their third party audit requirement in the late 1990s. From Jim Offner’s coverage in The Packer, from March 1999:
With food safety on the minds of consumers, Safeway Inc., Pleasanton, Calif., is moving to implement an initiative that will require the chain's produce suppliers to hire third-party auditors to certify their products as safe.
The grocery chain has recommended that suppliers contract any of three auditors: PrimusLabs.com, Santa Maria, Calif.; American Institute of Baking, Manhattan, Kan.; and Scientific Certification Systems, Oakland, Calif. Suppliers may choose another auditor subject to Safeway's approval.
Calls to Safeway headquarters were not returned, but a letter from Ed Wright, vice president of produce and floral, to suppliers said food safety concerns were driving the initiative.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think retailers were doing “third party audits” of fresh produce suppliers in 1984.
Again, things do change when 29 years are in the rear view mirror.