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Five things retailers want from fresh food suppliers

Five things retailers want from fresh food suppliers

SN just released the findings of its perishables state-of-the-industry survey, and the data will open some eyes.

The fresh food segment is on a growth curve, but respondents told us not all categories are sharing equally in the excitement. Sectors such as prepared foods are leading the charge and gaining in-store space, while on the flip side a few other categories are losing share at some retailers. You can read the in-depth coverage in a story by Liz Webber here.

SN’s survey also shines a light on a topic not often discussed: What retailers want from suppliers in the fresh foods arena. There’s been lots of focus on trading partner relations in center store/grocery, but less so in the perimeter. That’s beginning to change, which is all to the good because so much of the future is tied to fresh foods.

Let’s take a look at what retailers say they most need on this score.

1-Heads-up on new trends and items. This includes items being promoted via coupons or other means. Part of this is marketing 101, because retailers should get early warnings about promotions. But retailers also need deeper insights into where trends are going in order to effectively merchandise categories.

2-Further development of strategic partnerships. For years we’ve been hearing about closer collaboration between retailers and packaged goods suppliers in center store. This approach needs to be rolled out on the perishables side as well. That’s already beginning to happen and retailers are asking for more of it.

3-Bigger efforts on local products. Survey findings underscored the importance of local, as nearly 70% of retailer respondents said they offer more local products compared with two years ago. However, retailers said they want even more of these products, along with deeper supplier participation. As one put it: “We need a greater willingness from our local producers to show up in the stores and talk about their products.” My question is, Why wouldn’t producers want to be partners in this way?

4-More attention to independents. Independent retailers have long felt suppliers weren’t paying them enough attention, but usually this focused on the grocery/packaged goods side. This survey underscores that the problem is just as prevalent in fresh foods, as smaller retailers want everything that bigger operators have access to.

5-Education for store employees. This is crucial, because in-store service is increasingly a differentiator with shoppers. Consumers have just too many choices now and don’t need to compromise if associates aren’t helpful.


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The good news is more industry research on fresh foods is on the way, much of it to be presented at the FMI Connect event in Chicago, June 8-11. This includes a Power of Produce report (210 Analytics), a look at prepared meals in supermarkets versus restaurants (Technomic), and research into the value-oriented consumer (Nielsen).

Meanwhile, FMI has been focusing a lens on fresh foods through its Fresh Executive Council, said Rick Stein, the association’s VP of fresh foods.

Stein is working with other associations on fresh initiatives. As one example, FMI and Produce Marketing Association are collaborating on food safety training for local suppliers, he said.

These kinds of initiatives will be increasingly important if retailers and suppliers are to successfully build the perishables business together.

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