A few weeks ago, Bob and I attended “Connections on Retail Insights and Consumer Engagement” in Monterey, California. An exclusive, invite-only event organized by the Produce Marketing Association and Progressive Grocer Magazine, “Connections” brought together produce suppliers with cutting edge marketing service providers for 20-minute private meetings. We spent the day “speed-dating” with fresh produce growers, shippers, packers, and marketers, a total of 14 different companies whose candor and openness enabled us to quickly and effectively assess fit and opportunity.
What we learned
Conversation after conversation brought to life the elaborate supply chain, operational complexities, and distribution challenges in bringing fruits and vegetables from farm to table. Sourced all over the world and subject to the threats of Mother Nature, fresh produce is constantly evolving in the face of competition, commoditization, and finicky consumer trends. We learned:
- To be or not to be…a brand: What distinguishes a Well-Pict berry or a Monterey Mushroom from the generic baskets of strawberries or boxes of loose fungi in the produce section? Differentiation on quality, flavor, freshness, packaging, branding, and promotions are just a few of the dimensions. On top of supplying high quality product on a consistent basis, retail tactics must be carefully orchestrated and executed to convert shoppers into long term consumers who first recognize then choose your products. Otherwise a berry is a berry is a berry.
- Innovation at work, to meet demand: We met with several companies launching new products and trialing alternative placement opportunities. They aim to address the needs of picky consumers who increasingly demand year round availability, shopping convenience, and distinct benefits like health and wellness at low cost. These companies operate at unfathomably tight margins in sourcing globally to deliver locally. (Meanwhile, I can’t wait until I can swing by my neighborhood 7-Eleven for a snack pack of Fresh One sweet cherry tomatoes or the nearest Safeway for a bag of microwaveable artichokes.)
- There’s serious shrinkage, beware: According to industry experts, “up to one in seven truckloads of fresh food delivered to supermarkets gets thrown away”*. The causes of this waste? Some cite theft or product decay, while others blame supply chain issues and logistics gaps. Most disturbing: with such extensive distribution channels and dependence on third party brokers to collect data and combat retailer complacency for competing accounts, it can be extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly why and where.
That’s where Gigwalk comes in, by serving as the eyes, ears, arms, and legs to any organization with an offline footprint seeking information and action along those frontlines — that critical last mile where consumers are filling their baskets. Our flexible, location-based workforce focuses on getting each individual job done in their neighborhoods, while our product aggregates in real time the photos and information they submit.
Hmm, Earthbound’s bagged salads look a bit flat and understocked at my neighborhood Whole Foods.
Gigwalk already includes among its customer base an impressive roster of household brands, from leading consumer packaged goods companies to top tier management consulting firms. That Gigwalk can also aid fresh produce purveyors, these family-owned businesses who for generations have tilled the land and sought to bring the best quality fruits and vegetables to our homes, makes me proud. Our platform of 220,000 on demand, mobile workers in 6500+ cities are ready and waiting to be activated in an instant, to extend the reach of these businesses and maximize sales by improving merchandising and the customer experience wherever the store.
“Connections” is just one of many events we’ll tackle as the Gigwalk growth story continues and we find new and innovative ways to augment our product capabilities and mobilize our active base of Gigwalkers to best serve customer needs across industries. Stay tuned!
The newest member of the Gigwalk team, Tanya will be looking after customer acquisition and business development. Find her on twitter: @tloh.
*Source: “A Retailer’s Recipe for Fresher Food and Far Less Shrink” by Oliver Wyman