Dear Grower/Grocer: You Lost a Customer

This weekend I had an experience that reinforced the importance for growers and retailers of knowing and managing the remaining shelf life and quality of their fresh produce.

As I typically do on weekends, I went shopping at my favorite gourmet/high-end grocery store.  This is the store I visit when I want to purchase superior quality produce and meats.  As I was about to enter the store, my attention was drawn to a fresh produce display sitting just outside the store’s front door.  I noticed a sign promoting raspberries at something like $2.50/clamshell. I like raspberries and they’re a nice treat but generally cost $4-$5/clamshell.  So, when I saw $2.50 I thought it was a great price and decided I’d spoil myself.

Much to my surprise, when I checked the first clamshell I picked up I found I wasn’t about to spoil myself because I was staring a fuzzy, gray spoiled raspberry right in the face.  It wasn’t just starting to mold – it was well on its way to being 100% rotten.  Needless to say, I didn’t buy any raspberries that day and I will be suspect of both that brand and the store in the future.

What’s surprising and disappointing about this is that this was a MAJOR BRAND raspberry being sold at a locally well known high-end grocery store. What does it do to their respective reputations when they are offering high-cost fruit for sale that has already expired?

From the retailer’s perspective, if he had known the raspberry had one day or less of shelf life, he could have rejected it and, who knows, maybe it would have found its way onto the shelf at a discount store.  From the berry producer’s perspective, the next time I shop for berries, I’ll look for their competitor.

Shelf life prediction − made possible by pallet-level temperature monitoring − can help ensure that this problem never happens.  My experience that day cost the store/berry producer my $2.50  but who knows how many other shoppers came away with the same experience I had?


Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Food in abundance, but not without cost

I will never think about a pizza the same.  ChainLink Research’s Ann Grackin just published an extremely interesting article titled Food for Thought – Challenges in the Produce Supply Chain that provides a comprehensive examination of the challenges experienced in today’s food supply chain.  In the article, Ann discusses how the impact of bad weather, in-transit spoilage and disease affect the supply chain.

I'll never think about a pizza the same

She starts from an interesting perspective, that of eating a combination pizza.  Many of us would list pizza as one of our favorite foods but have you ever considered all of the ingredients that go into making that pizza and how all of those ingredients came together at your local pizza parlor?  Your typical pizza may include olives from California, tomatoes from Texas, onions from Mexico and potentially dozens of other perishable ingredients that have all been harvested, packed, put in cold storage and shipped various distances all to arrive in one place at one time for our consumption and enjoyment.

Ensuring the quality and safety of those ingredients is extremely complex.  This article details how various technologies are employed to help ensure our perishable foods are safe to eat.  You can read the article by clicking here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

E. coli Outbreak Reiterates Need for Condition Monitoring

The recent outbreak of E. coli across Europe demonstrates the urgent need for condition monitoring of fresh produce – especially the critical importance of electronically tracking and tracing fruits and vegetables from the field to the retailer with one of the biggest benefits being tracking the information about the produce’s origination and history on a tag that’s kept with the produce.

Is Your Produce Safe to Eat?

The outbreak, which has already resulted in 17 deaths, seems to be centered around Hamburg, Germany but, as of the moment, no one has yet determined where the culprit produce originated or what type of produce is responsible.  Pallet-level temperature monitoring and product tracing are components that can help to alleviate (though not necessarily prevent) these issues.  Because biotoxin growth accelerates when temperatures increase, monitoring produce temperatures from the field to the retailer can help to identify temperature conditions that can promote bacterial growth. In-pallet temperature monitors can help to track the temperatures and provide real-time insight into the condition of the produce. When high temperatures are noted, you can pull and test the produce before it gets into consumers’ hands.

The second aspect of the issue is traceability.  Tracking the origin of produce using paper-based systems takes time. While officials sort through mounds of paper, potentially contaminated food continues to work its way through the cold chain into the hands of consumers.  By tracking information about the origin and travel history of the produce with the pallet, significant amounts of time could be saved that could limit the spread of an outbreak.

In this new video, Intelleflex CEO Peter Mehring talks with The RFID Network’s Louis Sirico about the value of condition monitoring.

Peter Mehring talks with Louis Sirico about condition monitoring

Available technology can help to alleviate and address the spread of dangerous produce throughout the supply chain and minimize dangerous biotoxin outbreaks and the Food Safety Modernization Act and Produce Traceability Initiative will mandate changes.

Your thoughts?

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing