The recession has made food marketing more dynamic and has prompted suppliers and retailers to work more closely in capturing produce sales.

Suppliers, retailers work together in recession

That’s the word from Roberta Cook, a cooperative extension specialist with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California-Davis, who discussed how retailers are working to improve produce department sales in her talk on fresh produce marketing trends during a July 28 Red Book University Web seminar.

Red Book Credit Services is a division of Lenexa, Kan.-based Vance Publishing, which owns The Packer.

Though restraint remains the new normal for consumers, they continue to buy the high-quality items they were accustomed to buying before the recession, including more diverse and differentiated products, value-added, organics and locally grown.

Shoppers are looking for increased value that isn’t only about price, Cook said.

As conventional retailers are more competitive in attracting and retaining customers, she said the recession has brought buyers and suppliers closer together.

“We have been getting away from the typical adversarial relationship that has existed between buyers and sellers in the fresh produce industry,” Cook said. “The recession shows us how important mutual dependency is. There is tremendous potential for improvement in supply chain efficiency. That message has been driven home by the recession.

“As we come out of the recession, there will be sustained attention placed on trying to develop information technology systems so we can make more fact-based decisions in a more rapid and timely basis.”

Because consumers are buying fewer carryout and home delivery meals, they’re looking to more private label items and are using more basic ingredients, which should benefit fresh produce, she said.

Private label sales have been increasing primarily for fresh-cut produce but Cook said that growth will affect the commodity side more in the future.