Handling a Fresh Supply Chain During the Holiday Season
holiday supply planning

Handling a Fresh Supply Chain During the Holiday Season

For many, the holiday season is a time for family traditions. Decorating sugar cookies, volunteering, and shopping on Black Friday may make the list. But the food served at your family’s holiday meal probably tops that list of holiday traditions. Unfortunately, there are several things that can put pressure on fresh supply chains this time of year, putting your traditional meal at risk.

Surges in demand without acceptable substitutions
There are several times throughout the year when spikes in demand threaten fresh supply chains: the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas, to name a few. Often, it’s simple to switch out affected items for other produce that is readily available. But during a winter holiday surge, consumers have very specific items they want such as oranges, asparagus, sweet potatoes, cranberries and green beans. My favorite holiday food item is chorizo cornbread stuffing with carrots, onions, and celery, followed closely by green beans with bacon and onions. Like many consumers, swapping items for my favorite dish isn’t an option. I look to my favorite retailers to have the produce I need to make those dishes, and I’m not alone.

Transitions in major growing regions
The holiday season coincides with transition periods in several major growing regions. These typically happen in the spring and the fall. For example:

  • Growing dry vegetables in Georgia is wrapping up and is moving to Florida and Mexico.
  • Lettuce and wet vegetables are moving from Salinas to Yuma.
  • The grape supply is shifting from California to Peru.

Annual sales indicate these items continue to be popular with many consumers this time of year and are key items that require extra attention this time of year.

Complications from unexpected weather

Potential winter weather issues—in both the growing regions and your location—often add another layer of complexity to a fresh supply chain. While children are wishing for a white Christmas and snow days off from school, that kind of weather can quickly take your fresh supply chain by storm, causing delays and outages.

Flexibility is key to planning for the holidays
No one wants to run out of key holiday items this time of year. But how do you properly plan for all of the added risks and pressures the holidays can put on a fresh supply chain? To put it simply, you need to be flexible.

Work with a variety of growers

If you work with only a single grower in Florida for peppers and a hurricane wipes out their crop, you can’t switch to a backup. Working with a network of growers and partners in different regions can help ensure you have consistent produce throughout the holidays.

Take action quickly
It’s always best to be as proactive as possible when it comes to supply chains. But when you’re forced to react to an outside challenge, a company’s ability to build a multi-pronged supply chain solution in advance of issues could mean the difference between one more order before a snowstorm hits your distribution center and a three-day out of stock situation.

Build primary and secondary plans

The likelihood of something going wrong with your fresh supply chain during the holidays is much higher than other times of the year. But since you can’t know what will go wrong, you need to have backup relationships and solutions across the board.

Planning helped keep our existing customers happy this Thanksgiving. One customer in particular was especially happy, with 100 percent of orders without rejections for greens, cranberries and sweet potatoes. One hundred percent arrival rate is a rarity in this business, a hard-fought and carefully planned occurrence that only happens when you plan and then re-plan the plan.

Analyze the results
A quality analysis of your holiday supply chain can go a long way to making next year work better. Take the time to analyze what worked well, what didn’t work at all, and take action to change as necessary.

I hope your fresh supply chains run smoothly and you have a happy holiday season!

Michael Castagnetto

Michael Castagnetto - Vice President of Global Sourcing

Michael Castagnetto is the Robinson Fresh Vice President of Global Sourcing. He has built and sustained relationships with growers, suppliers and customers with a goal of helping them build, develop and evolve their supply chains. Michael uses his almost 20 years of experience and knowledge to open up global perishable supply chains and continue to build relationships with those in the fresh produce industry. His specialty is complex supply chains with a focus on fresh produce and integration of logistics to drive growth for my customers.

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