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4 Steps to Prepare for Summer Produce Surges
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4 Steps to Prepare for Summer Produce Surges

What’s a summer gathering without a stack of watermelon slices? Can you even consider it a summer cookout if there isn’t a platter of grilled corn on the cob? Is a Labor Day picnic as sweet if a bowl of fresh berries isn’t included in the spread? Everyone has a favorite summer holiday/fresh produce pairing. And it’s for good reason: from Memorial Day through Labor Day, all kinds of fruits and vegetables are coming into peak season.

This means there is increased demand by consumers and more pressure on fresh supply chains. While some may see the summer as a season of fresh produce logistics hurdles—like timing deliveries to match up with produce promotions for the summer holidays, for example—there are a few key steps you can take to help ensure you don’t miss out on sales as your shoppers purchase their favorite produce items.

Let’s take a look at what it might look like to properly plan a fresh supply chain program during the summer surge. We’ve used watermelon as an example.

4 ways to prepare for summer surges

1.  Work with a network of growers

For a consistent supply of watermelons, it’s a good idea to work with several watermelon growers across the country. Watermelon is a nomadic crop with harvest times varying by location. Typically, the first U.S. watermelons of the season come from Florida and Texas in April. As the season progresses, the harvest moves in waves from Georgia and Arizona to California, Arkansas, and South Carolina, and then through Midwestern and Northern climates. Working with multiple growers gives you a larger supply and reduces the chances of a growing location creating problems.

Another thing to consider is the potential summer weather issues that could impact supply. For example, if you work with only a single grower in Florida and a hurricane wipes out their watermelon crop, you might not have a backup option. This is why having a network of growers is important.

2.  Make plans, but plan to be flexible

The likelihood of something going wrong with your fresh supply chain during summer surges can be high. But since you can’t know what will go wrong, you need to have backup relationships and solutions across the board. It’s always best to be as proactive as possible when it comes to fresh supply chains. If 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 watermelon order before a severe storm hits your distribution center and leads to a three-day out of stock situation.

3.  Prepare your fresh supply chain for success

Watermelons are a challenging item to move through the supply chain—they are bulky and can be awkward to transport unless they are loaded in bins, and their harvest times are all over the map (literally!) from April to September. It can be tricky to keep up with the migrating supply. That’s why it’s important to work with a grower-shipper that emphasizes forecasting accurate lead times and stays in constant communication with you about crops, fill rates, and correct product availability. They should also keep tabs on the weather to gauge if melons from particular regions will be coming earlier or later than anticipated from the field and keep you updated on any changes.

4.  Analyze now for better forecasting later

Use this year’s summer surge as an opportunity to improve your fresh supply chains for the future. Completing a quality analysis of your summer holiday supply chain can go a long way toward making next year’s summer surge planning even better. After the season wraps up, take the time to analyze what worked well and what didn’t work at all, and then take action to change as necessary.

If you’d like to learn more about how to plan for surges, connect with one of our experts. Also, read our blog post on handling a fresh supply chain during the [winter] holiday season. I hope you are all enjoying your summer and all of your favorite produce!

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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