A new website called Produce Pipeline advertises daily flash sales with discounts of 10% to 20% for retailers, foodservice and wholesalers.
Though flash sale sites like Groupon have been around for years, it’s a relatively novel concept for the produce industry.
“So for a variety of reasons — geography, marketing capacity, a number of other issues — it’s been challenging to move produce quickly on the spot market. And that’s what we’re trying to help growers and shippers do and buyers benefit from,” said Produce Pipeline founder Randy Hartmann.
For the past 10 years, Hartmann has worked at his family’s company, Pacificpro, a produce distributor based in Bellevue, Wash. He noticed that the company often talked to buyers looking for deals and growers trying to unload extra produce, but it was difficult to connect the two.
“We’ve got five salespeople in the office all talking to different people on the phone. Everybody’s talking to different growers and shippers. And there’s no way efficiently to put the two together,” said Hartmann.
“And so we came up with this as an idea of how we could efficiently update buyers nationwide with a full run of commodities that various growers, well-known growers and shippers around the country are looking to move.”
Produce Pipeline, which went live Oct. 1, is able to source produce and ship it all over the country thanks to Pacificpro’s established business relationships.
A daily email alerts potential buyers to the top deal of the day as well as eight other deals on items like apples, onions and lemons. A recent offer featured Granny Smith apples at $9 for a box of 72, compared to a regular price of $12.90 per box.
Thus far, Hartmann said about half of Produce Pipeline’s customers have been supermarket retailers — with the other half comprised of foodservice and wholesale operators — but the majority of the interest comes from supermarkets.
“But what we’re finding is that typical produce buyers are accustomed to buying a certain way. They buy from relationships they’ve had for a long time. And they’re accustomed to doing it over the phone, via email or potentially EDI [electronic data interchange]. And this is a new medium. And so it’s trying to get the buyers comfortable with making a purchase of a perishable commodity via a new medium,” said Hartmann.
He has been working with buyers to help them understand what the company is all about. On request, Produce Pipeline can send photos of the produce, product labels and food safety documentation.
In addition, Pacificpro can provide logistics to buyers that need it.
“For our larger retail customers, a lot of times they may have their own in-house logistics department, and so that’s not something they would need,” said Hartmann.
“But for others, they may say, yeah I really like that deal on Gala apples, but I only need five pallets of them for an ad I’m running next week and I don’t have a truck out there. Well we can deliver it for them at no additional cost.”
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