Continued evolution in the marketplace has led to an expanding wholesaler niche as companies harness technology. “Complexity, shifting expectations from consumers, and technology improvements all play into wholesalers’ favor,” says Daniel Corsaro, vice president of sales and marketing at Indianapolis Fruit Company in Indianapolis. “Complexity creates a need for market experts, and wholesalers fill that void. Shifting expectations from consumers creates an opportunity to help larger organizations pivot faster than they could themselves. Technology creates opportunity to increase efficiencies and offer more for less.”
Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Brothers Sales Corp. in Philadelphia, maintains there’s a lot more to wholesale technology than one thinks. “Technology is there throughout our business,” he says. “We’re not just a bunch of folks with pencil and paper. We can talk about GPS, analytics, WMS (warehouse management system), computers and apps. There are all kinds of tools out there, and Procacci is using them. Wholesalers who aren’t looking toward this technology have their head in the sand.”
Customers today are driven by a lot of the same core motivators as five or ten years ago, according to John Vena, president of John Vena Inc. Specialty Produce in Philadelphia. “These include quality product, diverse selection, correct ripeness, multiple pack sizes, reliable market insights, on-time delivery, accurate billing and respect.
“However, there is more personalization of those things being demanded — special programs, custom pre-conditioning, dedicated trucks — and technology is changing the way we deliver on those needs,” he says. “We’ve made large investments in software and marketing over the past decade to ensure we’re able to meet the needs of our customers’ evolving systems.”
Stefanie Katzman, vice president for S. Katzman Produce in Bronx, NY, sees technology playing a big part in many aspects of the business. “Even little things, such as customizable documents so every customer can see exactly what they want to on bills of lading or invoices, have huge impacts on smaller retailers,” she says. “Electronic ordering to cut down on order entry time allows salesmen to focus on what customers want rather than the data entry. IPads in the warehouse allow sales and operations to be more mobile, so they are more efficient.”
To keep pace with technology, forward-thinking wholesalers are upping their game. “In the fall of 2020, Castellini Group of Companies (in Wilder, KY) will launch state-of-the-art technology allowing visibility and data across all aspects of the supply chain from ordering to warehousing to delivery to billing,” says Brian Kocher, president and chief executive.
Transparent access and insight into the entire supply chain allows Castellini’s retail and foodservice customers to track product in real time, manage inventory and demand in real time, and reduce inventory costs. “Our investment in technology, and the access we will give to our customers in retail and in foodservice, allows us to become supply chain partners focused on operational improvements in our customers’ supply chain rather than just a third-party supplier,” says Kocher.
Riggio Distribution Co. (RDC) in Detroit, implemented custom software to run day-to-day operations. “We built this system to be user friendly on the market, while also providing us with real time data on all of our customers, suppliers, individual commodities, as well as employees,” says Dominic Riggio, president. “It helps us comply with regulations in food safety and traceability, and is directly tied to our accounting department for AP and AR.”
Investments revolve around ease of ordering, inventory control and delivery, says Butch Hill, general manager at Shasta Produce in South San Francisco, CA. “This includes consulting along with reporting to identify trends within a store to maximize sales and minimize losses. These are things many of us in the wholesale supply chain never thought we would be doing five or ten years ago.”
Corsaro notes investing in technology partnerships enhances the ability to source effectively and provide unique business intelligence to customers on what their partnership has yielded across multiple Key Performance Indicators (KPI). “In tracking and sharing metrics such as on time delivery, fill rate, accuracy, call back time and others, we can prove we’re doing the work we pride ourselves on,” he says.
Fresh Taste, a wholesaler as well as importer/packer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has developed its own highly specialized software servicing all areas of its business effectively. “This has enabled us to provide our customers with high level, detailed information very quickly,” says Julian Sarraino, chief operating officer.
Ryeco in Philadelphia, recently installed a warehouse management system, scanning everything to locations to find product faster, track it faster and get product faster to customers. “Retail must use a wholesaler with the technology to provide traceability for food safety,” says Filindo Colace, vice president operations. “The software must accurately track and produce the proper documentation.”
Top Tips To Get The Most
Produce Business asked leading wholesalers for their best advice and here’s what they said:
Stay Loyal. “Loyal retail customers are the best customers,” says Dominic Riggio, president of Riggio Distribution Co. (RDC) in Detroit. “Wholesalers are buying on speculation. So, the more consistent the customer is, the better they can be serviced. Typically, that loyalty pays off. Loyalty will get you product on a tight market.”
Improve Supply Chain Efficiencies. “Retailers can improve their supply chain efficiencies by creating long-term partnerships with wholesalers and allowing wholesalers to provide creative solutions reaching far beyond the traditional product sourcing expertise,” says Brian Kocher, president and chief executive of Castellini Group of Companies, Wilder, KY.
Use Our Knowledge As Much As Possible. “There is nobody more posted than a wholesaler,” says Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Brothers Sales Corp., Philadelphia. “Retailers should lean on their wholesalers for information and take advantage of opportunity buys to present value to their customers.”
Be Forthright. “Be honest about your challenges as a retailer, and ask for solutions,” says Butch Hill, general manager at Shasta Produce in South San Francisco, CA. “Take advantage of services the wholesaler might offer to help improve your business.”
Share Sales Insights. “Share insights from sales data with your partner wholesaler,” says Emily Kohlhas, director of marketing at John Vena Inc., Philadelphia. “Mango sales slumping? We would hope a retailer would let us know, so we could help them build a dual-merchandising program for hard and ready-to-cut mangos.”