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Sharing Responsibility

Recently, I had a great opportunity to participate in a panel with other trade media folks at the United Produce Conference in Chicago. There were a few hundred people in the room, so I was a little nervous, but it was a great experience.

Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, turned the tables on all of us and asked us a bunch of questions, instead of the other way around. It was a good, timely discussion about the trends and issues facing consumers.

A resounding theme of the discussion was adding value – but not just to products. Processors, of course, have to add value to their products to keep consumers coming back, be it fresh-cut, fresh-prepared or new varieties and sizes. This, as you all probably know, is one of my favorite topics. But it goes beyond that – growers, shippers and retailers all have to add value as well. It’s a true value chain.

The growers have to add value for their customers by growing new, marketable varieties and offering more than just product. They have to offer service as well. This is where a partnership with your buyers can come in handy – you can work together to make sure the end consumers are getting what they want.

Packers and shippers have to know exactly what retailers are looking for – Russets alone aren’t going to cut it anymore. Retailers are going to choose to source their potatoes from suppliers who are willing to take their service to the next level by offering different options. The U.S. Potato Board already has shown that potato sales will increase by re-imagining the potato section of the produce department. It’s time to take that thinking to the next level and get some real partnerships going with retailers and packers – all the way down to growers.

So, maybe the real theme isn’t just adding value. If you work on building these partnerships and relationships, the value will come. After all, two heads – or three or six – are better than one. The industry’s success depends on everyone in the value chain working together – literally from farm to fork.

And don’t forget about Spudman in your efforts to add value and create partnerships. Spudman strives to be your source for industry information, and we look forward to working with the entire industry as it moves forward. If you have a great new product or are working in a partnership with someone, share your story with us – with the industry. We’d love to hear it, and I know your fellow readers want to as well. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call me at (616) 887-9008. Or, write me a quick e-mail to editor@spudman.com.

In closing this month, I would like to welcome Scott Christie to the Great American Publishing team. Scott joins us as assistant editor for Spudman and Fresh Cut. You’ll be seeing – and reading – more from him in the coming months. If you’d like to welcome Scott, send him an e-mail to news@spudman.com. Or, call him at (616) 887-9008, ext. 120.

Originally posted Saturday, Apr. 7, 2007

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