This article first appeared in the May 2021 edition of Produce Business magazine
Imagine you’re a farmer. You’ve spent the entire growing season investing your energy and passion into growing delicious, high-quality, good-for-you fruits and vegetables. You’ve done everything within your control, and you’ve also overcome conditions outside of your control (such as our good friend Mother Nature), to make it out on the other side of harvest with the best produce possible.
Now imagine you could enlist a partner to take the product the rest of the way for you, to find a home for each and every piece of perfect or perfectly imperfect produce you’ve grown. A partner who puts the same care into finding the right customer for the produce as you put into growing it.
Would you do it?
In a time of economic hardship, where sustainability and food scarcity are top of mind, it’s important to find a home for all produce that is grown. This is one of the many reasons why grower/shippers should partner with a wholesaler/distributor.
As a wholesaler/distributor, we are here to support our grower/shippers in normal markets, tight markets and flooded markets. We have the ability to reach customers of different scales and sizes, who have different spec requirements, and who apply varying levels of importance on price, quality and appearance. We have the ability to manage volume using our many outlets, pricing controls and our variety of products, helping you to maximize profits and reduce food waste.
For example, when supply doubles (or triples, or quadruples for that matter), we have the ability to reach and communicate to hundreds of smaller retailers who can easily adjust their displays and retail pricing to increase volume sold. Since we sell the majority of these retailers on a daily basis, we can quickly get them additional product and within a few hours can increase package count to whatever we need it to be. At S. Katzman Produce, our location in New York City positions us well for this, because 22 million people live within 50 miles of our operation. Wholesaler/distributors in other regions around the US and Canada also can serve as hubs for your products.
When we are dealing with shortages in production, we also have the ability to piecemeal product out in smaller deliveries since we sell so many different items and can round out orders with other products. The ability to both spread out delivery expenses over more products, and to be able to sell another item that may be more plentiful, keeps the retailers’ shelves stocked and the consumers’ refrigerators full even during shortages. We are able to maximize on profit because our business model is supply-and-demand and when supplies run short, we are able to get a higher price point.
We can also find the right customers for products with varying degrees of quality, appearance and ripeness. We’re able to talk directly to our customers while they are shopping, which gives us the opportunity to talk about flavor. As we all know, when it comes to produce, look and taste can be very different. While most mainstream retailers need that perfect piece of fruit, we are also surrounded by many others that have a customer base who doesn’t mind a scar or sunburned skin as long as the product tastes good. In addition, many of our customers use imperfect produce salad bars and prepared-food applications.
Our location also gives us access to many retailers, fruit peddlers and restaurants. That perfectly piece of ripe fruit that won’t make it several days on a retailer’s shelf will do just fine on the street corner fruit cart for the next two hours as people walk by and pick something up for their walk to work. As a wholesaler, we carry all sizes, shapes and grades of fruits and vegetables, and finding that perfect match amongst our diverse customer base is what we do.
So remember, whether you have too much or too little volume, perfect or distressed product, or if it’s just a regular day in the produce business, a wholesaler/distributor is a great partner to have. We are a true extension of our growers. We want you to put everything you have into growing the best product possible, and we’ll take care of the rest.
So when Mother Nature comes through with that beautiful sunshine resulting in double production, or those three straight days of rain that kept you out of the fields, you can count on your wholesaler/distributor to get you through it.
Stefanie Katzman is Executive Vice President and fourth generation in the family business at S. Katzman Produce, a leading wholesaler/distributor of produce based in New York City. She works alongside her father, Stephen Katzman, who is President and Owner of the 100+ year-old business, which is SQF-certified, sources nationally and internationally, and provides a full range of fruits, vegetables, berries, specialties, services, and offerings throughout the United States. Stefanie is also co-owner of MamaMia Produce.