Few of us would consider shopping at convenience stores for fresh fruits and vegetable and would walk over to the local grocery store as they have more fresh stock. With growth in food processing and preservation technology, more and more fresh vegetables and fruits are disappearing into tins and bottles as juices and pickles making them unavailable to low income families.
With slow and gradual disappearance of farmers markets and stores specializing in fruit and vegetable, more and more children are reverting to artificially flavored fruit juices with high sugar content. A recent study has shown that lack of access to healthy food has led to growth of obesity as people revert to fast food instead of homemade items with low fat and high fiber content.
Availability of fresh farm products in rural and urban areas
With their proximity to farms, convenience store and grocery stores have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables as supply and delivery is easy. Several grocery store chains with warehouses close to rural areas have tie-ups with large farms to buy their products wholesale and distribute them across their stores in the region. Though grocery stores are expected to carry more food products than convenience stores, in Texas it was noticed that dollar stores and convenience stores carried more fruits and vegetables along with other healthy food items. Availability of fresh food options in rural areas have made the people healthier when compared to people taking canned fruits and vegetables.
To make fresh vegetables and fruits available in urban convenience stores wholesale food distributors like Arbre Farms Corporation, Aunt Mid Produce, Atwater Foods, Burnette Foods and several others adopted the technology of IQF or individual quick freeze to distribute them across state boundaries. This technology has revolutionized the industry as it allows even quickly perishable products to stay fresh for long time as long as temperature is maintained during delivery and storage.
While some of these firms own farms, others have long term agreements with farmers who deliver their produce at specific pickup points which are then cleaned and frozen and distributed to fruits and vegetable wholesalers or to food processing companies. These agreements allow them to maintain greater control over quality of output and also reduce wastage during transportation.
Growers/Wholesalers of fruits and vegetables
Besides farmers who use outlets like farmers’ markets to showcase their products and then have agreements with local convenience stores to deliver their products, there are growers’ cooperatives across the nation who collate their produce to sell to convenience store brokers. Growers’ cooperatives set up associations to pool their financial resources and expertise in growing fruits and vegetables like apples, cherries, cucumber, peanuts, cabbages, pumpkins, potatoes and others which can then be sold to food processing companies and food distributors or even restaurant chains. This form of collaborative effort is helpful in helping farmers get good price for their produce and also keeps them free from worrying about whom to sell their produce after every harvest. These grower associations divide their business into two or three categories to provide a wider market for their produce by selling to food service outlets like restaurant chains, distributing to retailer chains like convenience and grocery chains and also selling to food processing firms.
Indirect marketing resources
The production of fruits and vegetables is generally carried out on a small scale by marginal farmers which are located in rural areas far away from city markets. Since the price that farmers receive for their harvest depends on volume and quality of delivery they prefer selling it as a group instead of as individuals. In every location which grows fruits and vegetables, there are terminal wholesale markets wherein individual farmers assemble together to sell their produce to biggest bidders/intermediaries like wholesalers, exporters, retailers, convenience store buyers, restaurant chains and food service companies.
Wholesalers take delivery of these products and pack them up in pallets for distribution to their clients across the state to retail outlets. Farmers sometimes sell the produce directly to large distributors or local chain stores that pick up the produce from their farms to reduce wastage and maintain quality. To avoid middlemen who cut down their bargaining power, farmers often work with restaurant chains and fast food outlets in the area to increase sales and profit levels.
Supply directly to retail outlets
It is very rare for a farmer to directly sell his products to consumers and this situation generally happens only at farmers markets or through farmers’ cooperatives. To get a better price for their products farmers can have a direct association with local retail outlets like convenience stores and grocery stores and can get truckers to deliver daily produce to them. If farmers in a particular locality produce similar fruits and vegetables then they can get the assistance of marketing specialists who can advise them on better storage and presentation techniques to maximize sales.
Supply through food distributors
Merchandisers and food brokers who are experienced in dealing with both producers and sellers of fresh fruits and vegetables know where the demand and supply will be highest at different times of the year. They maintain easy distribution of products at different times of the year and stock the less perishable items at cold storage points in various locations closest to their client to facilitate deliveries at required times. Since prices of vegetables and fruits keep fluctuating depending on season deliveries and production, food distributors have to ensure that there is steady supply to keep prices at an affordable level.
As fruits and vegetable are highly perishable products they have to be stored and displayed in the best possible manner to make visitors buy them. Several times customers make their buying decision only after walking into stores depending on the layout and price of products on display. Delivery of high quality fresh fruits and vegetables help build consumer confidence and loyalty if it is combined with friendliness. Attractive merchandising and food distribution increases visibility of both small and large fruits and vegetables to draw the attention of buyers.