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Perishable Pundit
P.O. Box 810425
Boca Raton FL 33481

Ph: 561-994-1118
Fax: 561-994-1610


email:
info@PerishablePundit.com

a

Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



A Look At Tesco’s Stores

We’ve been dealing with Tesco’s arrival in America for some time. Now we have some additional information. Here is what the stores will look like:

Here is a map of where the initial stores will be in the Phoenix area:

Here is a list of the Phoenix area locations:

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market

Greater Phoenix locations

  • Dysart & Greenway — El Mirage
  • Avondale & Van Buren — Avondale
  • 107th & Thomas — Avondale
  • 35th & Greenway — Phoenix
  • 32nd & Greenway — Phoenix
  • 12th & Northern — Phoenix
  • 19th & Glendale — Phoenix
  • 7th & Indian School — Phoenix
  • 19th & Baseline — Phoenix
  • Kyrene & Ray — Chandle
  • Dobson & Queen Creek — Chandle
  • Arizona & Chandler Heights — Chandle
  • McQueen & Chandler — Chandle
  • Greenfield & Warner — Gilbert
  • Higley & Ray — Gilbert
  • Gantzel & Ocotillo — Queen Creek general area
  • Crimson & Guadalupe — Mesa
  • Sossaman & Southern — Mesa
  • Apache & Ellsworth — Apache Junction
  • Stapley & McKellips — Mesa

The stores look attractive, though one wonders if all that glass in the hot Phoenix sun is really the green thing to do?

Fresh & Easy is trying to burnish its green credentials though. It made an announcement:

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Reveals First ‘Green’ Fleet Trailer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., May 22 Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market today announced the arrival of the first in its fleet of distribution trailers that, like its store locations, will showcase the company’s goal to be a good steward of the environment.

“Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is in a unique position to deliver fresh, affordable, high quality food into the neighborhoods in which we operate and to do so safely and in the best interest of the environment,” said Tim Mason, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO. “As a new company in the U.S., we have had the opportunity to work with leaders in ‘green technology’ to create, from the ground up, an entire fleet of aerodynamic, fuel efficient and neighborhood-conscious trailers in our first round of manufacturing.”

A highlight of the trailer includes a hybrid refrigeration vector unit which minimizes the amount of diesel used to safely cool and transport store products. All Fresh & Easy trailers will include automatic refrigeration shut-off when optimum temperature is reached inside the cooling chamber as well as a complete engine shut-off once parked at the stores. Electrical stand-by technology will also minimize the impact on the environment by using no diesel fuel to run refrigeration units on the trailers while parked at the distribution center.

In addition to maximizing fuel efficiency and reducing their CO2 footprint, the trailers are designed to reduce audible noise by 66 percent. For example, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market trailers will contain roll up doors rather than lift gate trailers to minimize noise. Drivers will also be committed to a zero-noise policy in the truck cabs while unloading at stores.

Specific site "route mapping" will ensure community safety by limiting deliveries during school hours and/or along major pedestrian traffic areas. Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is also regulating distribution times in accordance with its good neighbor standards.

The trailers are bright white and contain the company’s green Fresh & Easy logo. The website address (http://www.freshandeasy.com) lies across the back of each trailer.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Tesco is the UK’s largest retailer and one of the world’s leading international retailers, operating over 2,800 stores across 12 countries and employing over 370,000 people.

Tesco has grown from a market stall, set up by Jack Cohen in 1919. The name Tesco first appeared above a shop in London in 1929. There have been several phases of growth for Tesco and during the 1990s Tesco was successful in the UK by investing for customers and pioneering many new innovations. For example, the company launched the Clubcard loyalty scheme and Tesco.com, now the world’s leading Internet grocery store. In 1995 Tesco started to expand overseas and now operates in Ireland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand. Last month the first Tesco-branded store opened in China.

Tesco’s success is due in part to delivering a consistently strong customer offering on every visit and every transaction and by focusing on the company’s core purpose: to create value for customers to earn their lifetime loyalty.

Some of this is just the advantage that comes from being able to buy everything new and modern. But some of it is the product of a lot of hard work, thought and investment.

Lifetime loyalty is an ambitious goal but this project is nothing if not ambitious. One thing you have to say about the executive team, they are willing to take a risk.




PMA And United Agree On Federal Food Safety Regulation

The Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association have issued an unprecedented joint press release showing common ground on the issue of food safety regulation:

News Release
United Fresh Produce Association,
Produce Marketing Association Endorse
Common Principles for Federal Produce
Safety Regulatory Oversight

The Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association Boards of Directors announced today that each association has endorsed similar resolutions calling for a federal food safety regulatory framework to protect public health and enhance consumer confidence in produce safety.

“We are pleased that both associations have reached an independent but common conclusion that produce safety standards must be federally mandated, risk-based and allow for commodity-specific regulation,” said United Fresh Chairman Emanuel Lazopoulos and PMA Chairman Peter Goulet. “Such standards should be uniform and should apply consistently to an individual commodity or commodity group regardless of its place of production,” they said.

“Both Boards of Directors believe that our industry must work together to support appropriate action and oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to ensure public confidence in the food supply,” they said. “The FDA must also have the proper funding and support from Congress in order to provide leadership in setting commodity specific produce safety standards and overseeing compliance. We look forward to working together with FDA, as well as working collaboratively with state Departments of Agriculture, state Departments of Health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist in development, implementation, education and monitoring of food safety practices.”

As an example of this collaborative process, both associations point to the excellent work of the industry and government in California in developing quantifiable metrics for Good Agricultural Practices in leafy greens production. “These metrics can serve as a basis for FDA commodity specific guidance for leafy greens GAPs, taking into account needed variation in regional production and additional stakeholder input through a notice and comment period,” they said.

Both PMA and United Fresh will continue to encourage support for these principles among international, national, regional and commodity specific produce associations, working together with allies to ensure the most appropriate federal approach to specific produce safety measures.

The United Fresh Board adopted its initial statement of principles for the most desirable produce safety regulatory framework at its meeting January 20, and reaffirmed those general principles at its meeting May 5 with additional explanation of its recommendations. The PMA Board adopted a resolution following its meeting April 28.

It is fortunate that both PMA and United are thinking the same way because the Western Growers Association has different ideas.

In fact, in some ways, the board of PMA had to make a choice between the position of Western Growers and the position of United.

Everyone seems to acknowledge that some form of regulation is inevitable. WGA has been trying to drive the process in such a way that regulation will wind up under State Departments of Ag and the USDA. In addition, by using Marketing Agreements and Marketing Orders, WGA hopes for a process that will keep the industry in charge of writing the regulations.

To date the sterling example of this approach is the California Leafy Greens Handler Marketing Agreement.

It was an enormous accomplishment to get it passed, get almost universal participation, etc. Hopefully, the new Good Agricultural Practices that the CMA board approved will help food safety.

Yet hidden within our coverage of the recent CNN report on produce safety was a sign of how this form of regulation actually plays in Peoria. In this whole CNN Special Investigation, this massive industry effort gets exactly one sentence. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the CNN correspondent, states:

For their part, many farmers and processors have responded to the outbreaks by signing new, also voluntary safety rules developed by the Western Growers Association.

In other words despite complicated explanations about how voluntary becomes mandatory after people sign it, this form of regulation just won’t be perceived as credible by the media and consumers.

United Fresh came to that conclusion back in January and its board adopted a Statement of Principles which it just reconfirmed:

Statement of Principles
and Policy Support For Strong,
Federal Oversight of Produce Safety
May 5, 2007

At its Board of Directors meeting January 20, 2007, United Fresh Produce Association first adopted a statement of principles and policy support for federal oversight of clear and strong produce safety standards based on the best available science.

At the Board’s meeting on May 5, 2007, this policy position was reviewed and again endorsed, with the adoption of the following resolution supporting these guiding principles for a food safety regulatory framework for produce:

To protect public health and ensure consumer confidence, produce safety standards:

  • Must allow for a commodity-specific approach, based on the best available science.
  • Must be consistent and applicable to the identified commodity or commodity sector, no matter where grown or packaged in the United States, or imported into the country.
  • Must be federally mandated with sufficient federal oversight of compliance in order to be most credible to consumers.

We dealt with these principles when they first came out in our piece United Calls For Mandatory, Federal, Uniform Food Safety Standards. There are a lot of caveats and detail but, bottom line, this implied FDA regulation of the produce industry.

Now the board of PMA has adopted a resolution:

To enhance our existing commitment to and strengthen public confidence in a safe food supply, the Produce Marketing Association Board of Directors supports federally mandated, risk-based, commodity-specific regulation of fresh produce. Initial efforts on lettuce and leafy greens should build on recent steps already taken at the state level in California. PMA recognizes that the federal process needed to put such a regulatory framework in place may require a multi-stage approach. PMA believes that federal oversight by the Food and Drug Administration should be the final goal of this process. PMA also believes that FDA must be provided with the proper funding to conduct this critical mandate and urges Congress to make this a top priority.

Although PMA and United have both bent over backwards to praise WGA and the California Marketing Agreement, PMA and United are really seeing the world quite differently than WGA.

The national associations can support these regional, voluntary or quasi-mandatory efforts because they can be done quickly and because the Good Agricultural Practices developed for these efforts can eventually be turned over to the FDA, but the national associations cannot possibly believe that consumer and regulatory confidence can be built or sustained with things like the CMA.

The USDA and the various state departments of ag are viewed suspiciously by consumer advocates as a too close to the trade. And in drafting regulations, although even FDA would depend heavily on produce industry input, that is not the same as the industry drafting its own regulations.

Besides, WGA has not come up with a realistic plan on what to do when someone decides to drop out of the CMA or, realistically, how to expand that to other states and commodities, much less how to apply it to Mexico and other countries we import from.

In fact, although the initial plan was to quickly follow the CMA, which applies to handlers, not growers, with a normal marketing order that all growers would vote for, WGA has killed that plan because, even now, after all that has happened, WGA doesn’t think it could get the votes.

This being so, how can we realistically think these types of agreements will get the support they need, if we are dependent on farmers voting to make their own lives more difficult?

Now the question is how will WGA, with its spanking new Washington Office — which we dealt with here, here and here — react? The industry has been concerned that division between United and PMA could weaken our industry in Washington, but maybe the split is coming in a different form.

Perhaps the national associations find themselves in agreement on most things and the split will be more between marketing and growing. If so, United and PMA may want to save this letterhead with both logos on it, there may be cause for other joint announcements such as we have mentioned here.




Dachman To Head Sysco’s Produce Division

The interconnection between produce and foodservice is always a challenge. Most operators do not have dedicated produce buyers and so it falls to general food and beverage buyers to decide whether to get involved in the produce industry.

We have written about many foodservice operators who are involved in the produce industry, including this piece, Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Del Taco’s Janet Erickson And Notre Dame’s Dan Crimmins, in which we got food safety input from Janet, who rose to become Chairman of PMA, and Dan, who serves on PMA’s board. Yet if you asked the Pundit to name the person at Del Taco and Notre Dame who will be the next PMA board members, we would have no idea. For all we know they might drop their membership.

Today, with food safety being such a pressing issue, this disconnect is even more of a problem. As we wrote in our piece that explained NRA’s decision to endorse the California Marketing Agreement’s GAP metrics:

What it actually points out is something we have known for a long time. Most foodservice companies don’t know they are in the produce business and aren’t engaged in the industry as they should be.

Fortunately, the large foodservice distributors often can serve as a bridge. They know foodservice — that is their customer base — but they also have dedicated produce people who understand the produce business. They can be invaluable if we ever have differences with NRA or other foodservice associations.

Now we have a true produce person — one who cut his eye teeth in his family’s produce company, ascending to the title Vice President, Produce for Sysco:

Dachman Named Vice President
Produce, At SYSCO Corporation

SYSCO Corporation, North America’s largest foodservice marketer and distributor, announced today that Richard J. Dachman has been named vice president, produce.

Mr. Dachman served most recently as senior vice president, FreshPoint, Inc., a SYSCO subsidiary, and will assume his new position effective July 1, 2007.

Mr. Dachman, 51, began his produce career at his family-owned business, Perry’s Produce Co. After the sale of Perry’s Produce in 1979, he and his father opened a produce operation for Kraft Foods, Inc. in Denver. In 1987 Mr. Dachman joined Kraft’s corporate office as national director of produce. In 1992 he began working for FreshPoint of Houston, Inc. as president of Southern Produce, and two years later he was named president of Produce America, FreshPoint’s central procurement office in Salinas, CA. In 1998 he transferred to FreshPoint’s Denver operations as general manager and the following year he was appointed to president of FreshPoint’s Atlanta Group. In 2000, after SYSCO acquired FreshPoint, Mr. Dachman was promoted to his current position.

A native of Denver, Mr. Dachman attended Colorado State University, located in Fort Collins, CO. He and his wife, Clari, have four sons and reside in Sugar Land, TX.

Rich is on PMA’s Fresh Summit Committee and the convention is in Sysco’s Houston hometown this year, so combined with his new responsibilities he is going to have a busy 2007.

Best of luck to Rich in his new position.




Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: FreshLook’s Mark Degner And IRI’s June Fenzel

In light of major structural changes at Willard Bishop we ran a piece Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry — Willard Bishop Consulting’s Bill Bishop in which, among other things, we were advised that “…for some period of time AC Nielsen was out in front by itself in category management including perishables. Now, there is a strong initiative on the part of IRI to win a piece of that business.”

This led us to see what IRI was thinking, which led us to run an intriguing piece we called Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry — Information Resources’ Thom Blischok.

Bill Bishop added another point during our original conversation, in which he said:

“Essentially IRI and FreshLook Marketing Group parallel AC Nielsen and The Perishables Group in terms of the services they offer. They’ve developed skills of processing and analyzing perishable data and putting it in a form that can be used for category management.

We don’t have a standard universal code like packaged goods. Identification and analysis depends on tying in PLUs, seasonal data, and many other variables. AC Nielsen for several years pulled way ahead of IRI in the category management area. In the last year, IRI has said this isn’t satisfactory and is taking steps to come back in and be more competitive.”

We’ve often praised the work of the Perishables Group, most recently here where we reflected on a top-notch presentation Steve Lutz, Executive Vice President for the Perishables Group, did at the United Fresh convention in Chicago on the role of organics in mainstream supermarkets.

A little competition is good for the soul so if IRI and FreshLook Marketing Group are becoming more active, we wanted to see what they had to say to the industry. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to speak with Mark Degner, President and CEO, FreshLook Marketing Group and June Fenzel, Vice President of Product Management IRI so we could understand better what they are attempting to do in the perishables arena:

Mark Degner
President and CEO
FreshLook Marketing Group

June Fenzel, Vice President of Product Management, IRI

Q: What is the relationship between IRI and FreshLook Marketing?

A: June: In 2000, IRI spun off the perishable portion, and the FreshLook Marketing Group was formed. The relationship between IRI and FreshLook is interrelated. IRI provides the raw material from retailers to FreshLook, which processes the information, cleansing the data, and developing marketing level consistency for the retailers. A data set is provided back to IRI. Then IRI generates comprehensive data bases combining both the center store and perishables information for retailers to start utilizing with onsite assistance from the IRI team. The combined data accounts for 70 to 75 percent of the retailer’s total business.

Q: What perishables data are you processing?

A: Mark: The items that are scanned at the register when the consumer is checking out. Data is still coded at the retail level. Anytime a commodity is rung up we capture that code. We are able to look at a myriad of raw data feed in perishables, including produce, service deli and fresh meat at each retailer. We build data cubes. They’re massive; 4,000 or 5,000 products are active and we’re reporting on all of them. We’re trending weekly sales, market comparisons, how retailers are doing in relation to the competition.

With potentially 250 retail geographies and competitive geographies, our reporting is of a custom nature. We shape the reporting depending on the client needs. What we bring to the party is perspective.

A: June: For retailers to understand total store performance, it is critical to add the perishables side, not just center store categories. Benchmarking allows retailers to compare how they are doing to their market.

Q: What percentage of retailers are willing to provide data? How does this impact your competitive analysis in the marketplace? If Wal-Mart and Costco don’t participate, wouldn’t that skew results significantly since their presence in a market would presumably have great sway on sales and profit conditions, and therefore strategic category positioning?

A: June: In perishables, our service is concentrated on grocery retailers. Wal-Mart and Costco wouldn’t be included. Our coverage, according to census information, focuses on retailers representing approximately 73 to 75 percent of grocery volume.

A: Mark: We’re confined to the set of data in the supermarket universe. It’s a supermarket analysis of how Food Lion compares to A&P in a particular market. That doesn’t mean supermarkets don’t want to see insights from other retailers they consider to be in their competitive arena. But it is difficult to get this kind of information beyond the grocery universe.

Q: Could you provide some examples of the analysis you provide?

A: Mark: Retail numbers for a particular commodity showed the retailer had 10 percent growth and may have hit their goal or viewed the increase as excellent. Meanwhile, that category in their market was getting a 15 percent growth rate. The retailer didn’t know that they should be doing better.

Q: Aren’t there many factors that could influence that percentage difference?

A: Mark: Yes. It could be related to a promotion, pricing, merchandise mix, big store versus little store, demographics, among others. But this raises the flag that something is wrong. It brings competitive intelligence to the table.

Q: Wouldn’t analysis on that commodity growth rate be contingent on other commodity sales dynamics within the produce department, and for that matter other perishables categories and center store activity as well? In other words, the 10 percent growth in one commodity could be offset because consumers are gravitating to and replacing it with other commodities, perhaps of more value to that retailer.

A: Mark: The reality is that many variables could impact the business. A standard question to ask is how the market is doing, and if the market is performing higher, we let the retailer know.

A: June: IRI brings the analytic part to the table. Retail solutions teams take the data from perishables and analyze it directly to provide insights with category managers.

Moving on to total store, IRI reports on most center store categories as well. Paring this sales information up and comparing it with other inside store data can help category management staff see how sales are allocated through different departments. Previously, the data only provided a look at roughly 60 percent of store, but this was not helping manage the entire business. IRI’s FreshLook Marketing Group brings perishables into the fold, allowing the retailer to look at the entire store.

Q: Is it more difficult to gather accurate and comprehensive data in the perishables arena, and particularly in fresh produce, compared to dry goods categories and packaged items?

A: Mark: This is a misconception. There is a stream of data available through normal checkout scanning. Perishables are more challenging because of unique sets of codes at different retailers.

The bigger challenge is changing the way retailers think. Category management folks aren’t always able to own up to where they are falling short, to admit to a problem. Change is always difficult in the retail world. Here’s the last kicker. Retailers want to protect what they’re doing that’s winning. We get data from approximately 70 percent of retailers in a given market but getting the retailers to understand how their business fits within that market is the challenge; the concept of how to help them expand their category management program to management of the total store.

The category management lynch pin is building from certain sets of categories to include the entire perishables department. The next stage is applying knowledge from individual categories to the whole. Integrating insights on 3,000 categories with proprietary information specifically geared for that retailer is a complex undertaking. Retailers will find this challenging to do by themselves.

Much progress has been made and more and better data is available than ever before. Non-participating retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Costco, make the data far less robust than it could be. The PLU numbers used on ringing up produce are simply not specific enough to give the kind of information we need.

Many shippers who felt they had superior product valued selling to Wal-Mart under its old DC assignment system because it was easy to compare one distribution center to another. If one had lower shrink, higher sales, etc., that could be tied to specific brands and producers.

Most retailers would buy from many people, assign all the product the same PLU and any benefits from a superior product got, and in most cases still get, lost.

Every retailer we know complains about the organic product being rung up at conventional prices or at having to run all the plums at the same price because the cashiers will never get it right.

Mark hits the nail on the head when he focuses on the fact that going from data, to understanding, going from one product or category, to the whole store, is an enormous challenge.

It is good for the industry to have at least two vibrant players. We can expect them to work harder, develop new products and sharpen their pencils on price.

It is vital to try and understand what our customers tell us through their purchases. It also is vital to remember that the great merchandisers are masters of the data, not slaves to it.

Many thanks to Mark and June for updating us.




Pundit’s Mailbag — Beef Industry Not The Best Guide For Produce Food Safety

It was the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative that called for the produce industry to look to the beef industry as a model for how food safety in produce might be improved. We followed up by writing Pundit’s Pulse of The Industry: Beef Industry Food Safety Council’s James “Bo” Reagan.

Acknowledging that everyone’s experience has value and we should learn what we can from each industry, one of the trade’s most prominent food safety experts points out that the experience of the beef industry may not offer the produce trade as much guidance as we would hope:

There are a number of individuals claiming that the lessons learned from the beef industry should be used as a model for the fresh produce industry. Certainly we would be foolish to ignore the lessons learned in any industry, but it would be wise to keep in mind a few of the differences between commodities while doing so.

For example, the following are the first two sentences from an abstract* in a recent edition of the Journal of Food Protection: “Harborage of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on animal hides at slaughter is the main source of beef carcass contamination during processing. Given this finding, interventions have been designed and implemented to target the hides of cattle following entry into beef processing plants.” The fact that feces are a major source of the microbial load on the hides assures us that there will be a high correlation between microbial levels and human pathogens in beef.

The first difference between beef and fresh produce is that we do not know the main source of contamination for fresh produce. The typical US grocery retailer will display more than 500 items. Depending on the item they will be grown with continual contact with the soil (root corps) to never contacting the soil (orchard and vineyard crops) and everywhere in between. We will more than likely find that there is no principle source of contamination but rather multiple sources that trade places with regards to significance depending on crop, location, cultural methods, weather, harvesting system, etc.

Second under the normal conditions, beef muscle or meat starts as a sterile product. Microbiological contamination with human pathogens is occurring at slaughter, and the principle sources being the process of removing the hide or the intestinal track. Produce does not start out as a sterile product. In fact one of the objectives of the aggressive push of organic and sustainable farming is to insure that the soil we grow our produce in is teaming with beneficial microbes. Those microbes help to create a healthy soil but their presence on the harvested produce is inevitable. A total plate count in the millions on beef will raise a red flag. A similar find on produce is not uncommon and typically not associated with the presence of human pathogens.

Third microbial levels on many produce items will be correlated with weather. Microbial levels will increase subsequent to rainfall events in semi arid or arid regions on many crops.

Fourth the muscle from beef is not a living organism. Fresh produce is and therefore must be handled in a manner that does not negatively impact its finite life expectancy. This will limit many of our remedial options.

Fifth the primary corrective measure for high proteins is not an option for most fresh produce items. A wok provides remediation in certain parts of the world for fresh produce, and cooking certainly addresses many of the issues in the poultry industry, but heat is not the desired corrective measure for most fresh produce items.

Taking the comparison with the beef (high protein) industry too far will not solve the fresh produce industry’s current problems. It will allocate limited resources to efforts with minimal return.

— Robert F. Stovicek, PhD.
President
Primus Group

* “Effects of a Minimal Hide Wash Cabinet on the Levels and Prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on the Hides of Beef Cattle at Slaughter” in the Journal of Food Protection Vol. 70, No. 5 pages 1076 — 1079.

It is easy for people not directly involved in these areas to get carried away. Bob served a useful purpose when he cautioned us about drawing too many conclusions from overseas operations that do not function under CDC’s PulseNet. Now, he points out that produce is unique and we can waste resources tilting at windmills.

Many thanks to Bob and to Primus for helping us think these issues through.

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