The Produce Aisle with Armand Lobato ( Photo by The Packer staff )

I was positioning the little American flag on my desk when Russ T. Blade peeked from behind Old Glory. “Rusty,” as readers know, is the miniature imaginary produce manager who lives in my desk and appears occasionally to talk shop.

Rusty: It is July Fourth already? Produce should be nearing peak volume and sales. 

Me: True, there’s a lot of synergy and everyone hopes to take a deep dive into the data mine, flesh sales out, you know? Think outside the box and capitalize on the seasonal lift.

Rusty: Geez, I didn’t take you for one to spout off corporate-ese buzzwords.

Me: I’m not, and you aren’t either. We’re just a couple of old-school produce guys that speak plainly.

Rusty: It does drive me a bit nuts to hear the younger generations speak in “fleshed-out” terminology. I have to carry a business cliché thesaurus just to keep up.

Me: I have to admit, some acronyms and buzzwords have infiltrated produce operations everywhere, and I agree, some terminology is a bit, well, contrived.

Rusty: You mean like “plant-based” foods? Isn’t all fresh produce plant-based? Produce, after all, is either the fruit of a plant, the plant, or the roots of the plant.

Me: I think that term is reserved for products made from plant origins. Such as hummus or tofu.

Rusty: What about “local”? We’ve always marketed seasonal locally grown produce. We just marketed it as being from a close-by region or state.

Me: How about produce delivery? I remember reading about such history in my hometown of Denver, pre-World War II. Nearby “truck farms” — small growers loaded produce into mule-drawn wagons in the morning, and maneuvered through the back alleys all day, calling out, “Produce! Fresh produce!” Housewives would step outside in twos and threes, the screen door slamming behind them. The farmer stopped, rolled back the canvas to reveal rows of beautiful, fresh-picked vegetables. The women made a makeshift sack with their aprons and carried the produce back to their kitchens, into the “icebox” or prepared fresh for dinner.

Rusty: You have been around a long time, partner.

Me: But you’re right. Many current ideas, terms and trends tend to be recycled from yesteryear.

Rusty: Consider food waste. Was there ever a time that retailers or consumers didn’t want to minimize waste? It sure seems like someone recently woke up from their boardroom nap and said, “Let’s focus on ... this!” Like no one ever thought of it before.

Me: Most new ideas are rebuilt old ones, sure. I like that old ideas can be rebranded and improved upon. Every generation has something to add, to concur, confer, bequeath or bestow ...

Rusty: That’s enough. Stow it already.  

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].

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