With the weeks-long crush of panic buying fading, grocery retailers are figuring out what to do next, in produce and across their stores.

Some are engaging in SKU rationalization, said Joe Watson, vice president of membership engagement for the eastern U.S. for the Produce Marketing Association. Some have pulled back to a degree on their promotions and advertising. Others, at least online, have remained aggressive in their efforts to attract shoppers to buy more produce in particular.

“All eyes are on what Easter is going to look like,” said Watson, who noted that he had spoken with shippers who said purchase orders are ramping up again as stores get ready for the holiday. “It’s going to be interesting to see how Easter looks versus normal because think about all the things that are taking place with regard to traffic flow in the stores. Municipalities are getting more strict on how many people can be in a building at once, certainly honoring the social distancing procedures that are in place and practices that are in place, but even (one customer per buggy), those types of things, limiting (aisles to) one-way traffic in the store.

“All these things are going to impact the opportunity for impulse purchasing, whether it’s Easter or regular shopping, so these are things we’re going to have to continue to monitor to see how demand may be impacted because of that,” Watson said.

He mentioned that a few more elements to watch include:

How accurate demand forecasting will be for crops being planted for summer and fall and whether future months will present a demand-exceeds-supply or supply-exceeds-demand situation, depending on what growers choose to do.

How quickly the foodservice sector bounces back once municipalities allow for dine-in services again and what the corresponding demand at retail will be as a result.


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