Wholesalers Can Help You Succeed in Fresh

Originally printed in the June 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Produce wholesalers are a vital link in the supply chain for independent supermarkets, natural food stores and co-ops. We provide access to a wide variety of conventional and organic commodity and value-added products, while giving retailers an opportunity to tap into our inventory for freshness, turns and consistent supply.

A good wholesaler serves as the connection between grower/shipper partners and retail partners. We want to provide value for the retailer by focusing on quality, on-trend products, prompt deliveries, high level and friendly service at fair prices.

Good communication is important in any healthy relationship. Wholesalers need to be able to proactively communicate information related to markets, availability and quality for retailers to make informed decisions for their businesses. Wholesalers depend on input and feedback from stores on topics such as consumer demand, quality and competitive pressure.

Chain supermarkets have teams of professional buyers, merchandisers and category managers who analyze data and make decisions on product selection, spec, label, pricing, replenishment, plan-o-grams, promotions, seasonality, etc. Decision-makers at independent supermarkets have all those same responsibilities and must wear many different hats in their roles! Their supply partners can help them with category management support by providing services and metrics needed to make critical business decisions to support sales growth and profitability.

At Four Seasons Produce, we have invested in resources to help others succeed in fresh. Buyers focuses their efforts on building relationships with grower/shippers and producers to build a network of reliable suppliers. Sales focuses energy on building relationships, high level customer service, pricing and ad planning, communication, and execution in support of customers sales growth. Marketing supports sales and buying with high quality materials such as The Market News, The Four Seasonal, new item and promotional flyers, as well as digital and social media content. QC manages quality standards on inbound, storage and outbound, as well as ripening avocados and bananas. Warehouse operations and outbound transportation are critical components to the flow of product from our dock to the stores.

There is a lot of coordination and intense activity involved in receiving, storage, case selection and shipping for a wholesale produce operation. Our privately owned fleet of late model and well-maintained equipment, with professional, friendly and knowledgeable drivers who unload their own freight, add to the personal touch. Support departments, such as IT, HR, Food Safety, Accounting and Packing, make it possible for the organization to operate smoothly, safely and effectively.

Wholesalers who offer merchandising resources can help retailers take it to the next level by helping bring their vision to reality through collaboration on product placement, promotions, display builds, new store and seasonal sets, and innovation. Experienced merchandisers are happy to share their knowledge through coaching, teaching and training produce staff on best practices in effort to enhance the conditions and performance of their department.

The wholesaler/retailer partnership is a two-way street — one can’t do it without the other and need to share in one another’s wins and challenges to thrive. There must be a high level of trust, open communication, and transparency between them to facilitate growth. A successful partnership is when both parties are flourishing together.

Like Jeffery Gitomer says, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends.”

Wayne Hendrickson is the director of sales for Four Seasons Produce located in Ephrata, PA. Four Seasons Produce Inc. is a full-service wholesale produce distributor supplying organic, local and conventional fresh produce, as well as fresh meat, dairy, floral and related products to organic markets, food co-ops, independent retailers, chain stores, and other fresh buyers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.