Wholesalers and retailers present increasing foodservice competition challenge

Kath Hammond
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Markon Cooperative has played a pioneering role within North America’s fresh produce industry for 30 years. In this video, Produce Business UK catches up with company president Tim York to find out what he believes are the latest challenges for traditional foodservice suppliers both in the USA and abroad

Watch the full video interview with Tim York

In the UK, we often look west to the USA to find out what the next big trends will be in the retail fresh produce scene. USA players do the same – with much innovation starting out on the west coast in California before sweeping across the country to the Atlantic seaboard and beyond.

New competition

Foodservice distributor Markon is one of those pioneers; having innovated in the fields of food safety, packaging and branding. The cooperative supplies 72 different warehouses throughout the USA and Canada with fresh produce, exclusively for the foodservice market.

Currently, the firm is seeing competition coming from a range of different sources – trends that could – and some already are – make their way across the pond and which UK foodservice suppliers might do well to follow.

President Tim York says: “In the States we have a lot of new competitors emerging –  [online retailer/marketplace] Amazon is just one of them. We also have Restaurant Depot [a members-only wholesale cash & carry foodservice supplier] – that’s a lower-end value distributor and you have Costco [a wholesaler] that is doing business direct. So we have lots of new competition coming into the marketplace, as well as retail, all fighting for share of stomach.”

Likewise, retail operators have become increasingly savvy at raising their footfall and keeping their shoppers on site for longer through a growing foodservice offer, as York explains: “When you look at stores like HEB and Wegmans, they have full-on restaurants within a retail market. It makes it very convenient for consumers to pick up what they need from the grocery store, as well as to pick up a prepared meal or sit down in the café and eat. So there are lots of different competitors emerging.”

International perspective

York admits that as a North American operator, there is always the risk of being too insular. Nonetheless, he is aware there are a number of trends emerging worldwide from which to learn too.

“We are very US-centric in our thinking as Americans,” he says, emphasising the importance of attending and taking part in global trade events such as the London Produce Show and Conference.

“It’s a great way to open our eyes to the international trade aspects of the produce business because what is going on in China, Russia, India, all these other growing areas, is going to impact the USA both from a supply and a pricing standpoint at some point, so we need to be aware of that.”

Tim York was talking to Produce Business UK at the London Produce Show and Conference 2015. Don’t miss next year’s event, which takes place on 8-10 June 2016. Find out more here

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