Over the past week, as we all know, our lives have changed. I have not slept in days as I prepared for the fight of my life to keep the baby my family created afloat. My biggest concern was the jobs of my people and maintaining the tires turning, as well as the supply chain moving. In times like this, the first thing I realized is just how vital the essential elements are and what is no longer a necessity. For those of us in the foodservice industry such as myself, we are not only fighting the problems of the world, but we were placed in survival mode. The produce industry and the grocery store in general went back 25-30 years in 3 days.
It is in times like these you have to remember the influences you have had in your life. I am so thankful that I am at the youngest age of those who saw the end of the earlier days of being a middle man. The farmer, trucking industry, and terminal markets are booming right now. Emails, texts, and other modes of communication have gone back to phone calls and note pads.
Over the years, I have been constant in one thing I have always said, and that is adapt/evolve or die. I feel that even when you look back to my prior writings, you can see the focus was always there to appreciate what you have today, remember how you got here, and never take tomorrow for granted. We all can change and move, but were we positioned for this? If you look back over several industries over time, things like this happen, and you have winners, and you have losers when the grim reaper knocks on the doors of a particular industry.The question becomes, what will this do to the landscape of the produce industry now and for the future.
The current impact on the restaurants, economy, and social distancing will continue to put pressure on the retail sector. With restaurant closings, there will be fewer places to go to in the short term. The following are my predictions, but I feel they are accurate based on what I have seen already. The supply chain to keep moving will be eliminating SKUs, such as value-added products. I believe they will come back, but in the short term, there is no time to keep shelves replenished. The items that strive on the produce shelves from the dawn of time will drive the sector.
The restaurants will now be succumbed to use the whole product again as they used to as well as no longer mandating the labels in the door. Food safety will drive the way, and at the end of the day, good lettuce is good lettuce. We will no longer see 18 kinds of spring mixes, nor items that only have limited movement. The menus for the short term 18 months or so will simplify. The world of SKUs, which is another thing I have spoken continuously negatively about, has put the industry in this predicament. We all lived in a world where we never said no to anyone and took care of the customer the same way we always have. This affects not only us but every industry in general. We are all afraid of losing a sale. As I have stated many times from the potato chip aisle to the hummus section and the produce section, there are way too many choices. I expect our world to go back in time, not just as I have said in produce 25-30 years but retail also.The supply chain is crowded and bogged down because of the number of SKU's we have allowed the world to utilize. Unfortunately, the dairy companies did not evolve as I stated in a recent podcast into non-dairy segments because now the demand went back to the actual dairy. They were gobbled up and dried out by not investing in the alternatives, even if they were not sustainable. Why did Amazon overtake so many retailers? I would say service and the availability of multiple SKUs.