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Market Minute: Volatile produce markets cause difficult promotion planning

By
Ron Pelger

MangosDo you know what produce directors and buyers have to do in order to develop a weekly produce ad program? It’s a time-consuming challenge, especially when the markets are as erratic as they are now.

Directors need at least one major high-volume front-page ad feature — grapes, strawberries, asparagus, melons — to serve as a popular sales driver. The lead items have to be impressive enough to draw shoppers to the produce department.

When produce directors see specific words in the market reports like “Alert” – “Escalated” – “Limited” – “Short Supplies” – and “Demand Exceeds,” it becomes difficult for their promotional planning. Problems procuring the preferred produce items for an ad plan always frustrate directors and buyers. And the forecast about inclement weather only makes matters worse. This is when “ad promotion fatigue” sets in on the directors.

“All of the challenges I am experiencing are mostly cost and quality issues," said Vince Mastromauro, produce director for Sunset Foods in Highland Park, IL. "The weather and high costs that have hit the grape and berry tonnage categories are so high that gross profit gets thrown out the window if you want to compete. Another area of concern is how customers react. So, what I’m seeing here and throughout the industry is people in general are buying just what they need and surely less.”

Here are some good items to consider in planning ads:

Florida is shipping some excellent quality sweet corn in good volume — yellow, white, and bicolor. Now is the time to promote some ads.

Excellent quality and supplies of California and Moroccan Clementines are readily available for promotions at reasonable prices.

Mango supplies will be increasing out of Mexico along with lower pricing. It will be perfect for promotion.

The Vidalia onion deal will be starting to ship by the end of April. Quality is expected to be outstanding as usual. Plan some ads with your supplier.

The asparagus fields will be ready soon for the new spring crop. This will open up great opportunities for ad features.

Your suppliers are on top of the markets. With warmer weather setting in, volume of produce items will start to improve from many growing areas. Check with suppliers as to when more opportunities arise for ad promotions.  

Ron Pelger is a produce industry adviser and industry writer. He can be contacted at 775/843-2394 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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