Produce Procurement Buyer
Albertsons - Safeway: Boise, ID
Years in Produce:
Married; One son
Hobbies: Crafting and traveling; family/community
Motto in life: Grab life by the horns.
Work History: McKenzie first started in produce when she was 15, working with a family that sold produce roadside, going to pick up produce at the Jessup, MD, market or direct from farmers in New Jersey. She began her formal career as a crew leader and later a shift manager for wholesaler and re-packer Lancaster Foods (Jessup, MD). She later took at job at a Mars supermarket in Baltimore as a produce clerk. From there, she was hired at Safeway in Upper Marlboro, MD, as a quality control specialist. In 2015, McKenzie took her current buyer position, where she is responsible for gathering information about current market conditions, negotiating pricing, managing inventory levels and keeping up with new and seasonal commodities. She also helps train new buyers.
Questions & Answers:
Q: Are you a Gen X-er or Millennial?
I am a Millennial, and I feel like I fit in that category. I utilize technology for a lot of things in my life; I have a lot of responsibility so I find it the most efficient way to go about a task. I believe I am a progressive thinker and accept the differences in people.
Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
I wish someone had counseled me earlier on about how to professionally challenge something that I do not agree with.
Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Learning that there has to be some flexibility in produce. Not everything is black and white; you have to take in a lot of factors.
Q: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of in your career?
I have two that really stand out to me. One, when I was still a QA, I was offered a buyer position based on my manager recommending me for the position, and that meant so much to me. The second is being asked to help with buyer training at other facilities in the company. Some areas are getting new systems, and I have been asked to be one of the people who goes out and helps with conversion training. I hold that as a big accomplishment. I also get to meet other buyers and make new connections.
Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?
I would like to see us utilize more technology for communication or be able to use an app to pull down USDA pricing data, live-stream with my vendors and see what is being packed, and things like that.
Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew produce was the industry for you?
I actually left for a little while and was a bakery manager. All I ever did was talk about how we did things in the produce world, and when I went into a new grocery store I made a beeline to check out their produce stand. I realized I really missed being in that industry.
Q: What are some of the more challenging aspects of a career in produce today?
I think the consumer is the most challenging aspect. There are so many different people to appeal to, you have the “foodie”, the price shopper, the all organic buyer, the convenience shopper, those who want to be well informed and those who don’t care. Then, it’s about what identity does your company want to promote to capture their correct audience.
Q: How has the industry changed in your tenure?
I think the largest change has been in the commodities themselves. I have seen varieties become less popular and the market shift to new items.
Q: What has shocked or surprised you about the produce industry?
I think it is amazing that there can be so many proprietary varieties of the same item. They just get called by a different name.