Weis-Buy Farms is experienced in adjusting to a changing world
While COVID-19 has had a tremendous effect on the produce business and the way people are living their lives, Chuck Weisinger said it’s also another factor that has led to numerous changes in how produce professionals are adjusting to life in the 2020s.
“We seem to have fallen into the world of today’s—and the future’s—produce business whether we like it or not,” said Weisinger, CEO of Weis-Buy Farms, headquartered in Fort Myers, FL. “The truth is that neither the house or the supermarket is burning down, it is only that the dynamic of produce marketing has changed in the last two years, and the advent of COVID-19, with the changes it has made in our daily existence, is only one manifestation of the change.”
He added that the virus has also increased awareness of the fragile ecosystem, and that the safety protocols industry professionals are practicing to keep produce clean and healthy are here for the long term.
“We have seen a tsunami of trends as our consumer base has spent more time at home and wants comfort food one week and home-cooked gourmet meals for their families the next week,” Weisinger said.
Other factors that are affecting the industry include the increased cost of growing produce, labor issues, and huge retailers delivering goods right to people’s homes.
“Unfortunately, we are beginning to find somewhat of a lack of diversity in the stores, because of this,” Weisinger said. “Part of the charm of going to the supermarket is being able to touch, look and feel the color and texture of a new kind of fruit or vegetable that is on the shelf; the moon-drop grape or the rambutan that looks like a hairy lychee fruit. Without some of us going directly to a store, you lose that ‘touchy-feelie’ experience that we used to have and forget that our family might like this culinary variety and experience.”
He added that Weis-Buy is “reinventing the wheel’ by reminding its customer base to diversify their produce lines, even though that takes time and effort.
“We are constantly reminded that this is a partnership, not just a buy/sell arrangement, as we have watched many of our fellow businessmen get tired and give up trying to change with the frustrating times,” he said.
Weisinger also noted that Weis-Buy’s staff is becoming semi-professional weather forecasters who are trying to predict heat waves and cold snaps that can affect business.
“This has helped us to buy accordingly and in the right time frame,” Weisinger said. “We are not produce geniuses, but we have been doing this for a long time and can see trends and movement from a national perspective because we buy all kinds of produce from broccoli to zucchini squash and have to stay posted.”
Another factor in Weis-Buy Farms’ success is its expertise in all areas of delivery.
“It is not enough to buy the produce and see that it gets purchased, but to arrange reliable transport that will not only stack, load and carry our fruits and vegetables correctly and at the right temperatures, but also to arrange transportation that will deliver the produce on a timely basis,” he said. “Finally, with collection becoming more and more important, we arrange the terms and conditions of sales to make both shippers and customers happy.”