Oct 7, 2020
Monitor shifting purchasing patterns to grow business

A recent report from The Food Industry Association and The Hartman Group stated that “nearly all families (87%) report eating together as important and the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified this value. Some younger shoppers, namely 48% of Gen Z and millennials, say they are eating healthier during the pandemic. Forty-one percent of shoppers surveyed report cooking more and 42% are minimizing trips to the store or using perishables before they spoil. Before the pandemic nearly all (90%) grocery shoppers reported dinning out sometimes, but during March and April only 45% of shoppers reported utilizing restaurant delivery while 35% reported cooking at home six to seven days a week.”

Of the consumers that were surveyed, one in four say they will continue to shop for groceries online.

I know that what I’m about to suggest is easier said than done particularly during the busy growing season but at some point, you need take a look at your sales records for this year to date and compare it to last year’s sales over the same time period. What are your customers purchasing compared to last year? How much has the pandemic influenced what and how much your customers purchase? Understanding the change in purchasing or shopping habits can help us make decisions around our supply chains so we can have a consistent stock.

Build resiliency into your supply chain. As consumer demand increased for farmers to sell direct to the consumer, some farms that originally wholesaled to retail farm markets pulled product to meet their own demands. This left the retail farm market without that product. Looking for ways to diversify our supply chains will mean you won’t be left without product.

For many years, large retailers have adopted the “just in time” or “lean inventory” systems developed by the Japanese auto manufacturing industry. Most of the retailers ignored a key component of the system that is to have a plan B in your supply chain. You can be sure these companies are developing a plan B for if and when plan A, for whatever reason, is disrupted again.

So, what is your plan B? Since we are seeing some new customers in our farm markets, we want to be able to keep them coming back to our market and anyone working in retail can tell you that you need products that are good quality, fair priced, and a consistent supply. If our plan A has some kind of disruption in our key products, is there a replacement supplier who can quickly fill that gap, so our customers don’t lose confidence in our ability to have a consistent supply?

We are still seeing some empty shelves in retail stores but farm markets have an advantage of having very short supply chains. We need to capitalize on that advantage and diversify our suppliers or at the very least, start developing those relationships.

— Brian Moyer, Penn State Extension

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