Consumers probably aren’t thinking about the 2018 holiday season yet. But when the time comes, their list of holiday to-dos will include planning out their holiday meals. And that means they’ll expect all of their favorite and requisite fresh ingredients to be readily available at the store.
That’s why you likely are already thinking about the holidays. It’s up to us—the fresh produce industry, from growers to suppliers to retailers—to make sure produce arrives fresh and on time at stores. It takes proactive planning, swift and seamless execution, and expertise in temperature controlled shipping to make a bountiful holiday season happen.
Holiday surges put pressure on fresh supply chains
Holiday meals involve a cornucopia of fresh ingredients. In our industry, that translates to surges in demand for seasonal produce. Produce must move efficiently from field to shelf, but the increase in demand for produce leading up to the holidays adds extra pressure to fresh supply chains. What’s more, coinciding seasonal events, like transitions in several major growing regions or winter weather issues, can also cause delays and outages.
No one wants to run out of key items during the holidays—especially because consumers want very specific items for their holiday meals (think oranges, asparagus, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and green beans). So how do you properly plan for all of the added risks and pressures the holidays can put on a fresh supply chain?
Start developing your holiday surge plan now.
5 tips for your holiday surge planning
It’s always best to be as proactive as possible when it comes to supply chains. Here’s one way to think about planning inventory for the holiday surge.
1. 12 weeks before: Revisit your annual holiday plan
A quality analysis of your holiday supply chain can go a long way to making the next year work better. Take the time to analyze what worked well last year—and what didn’t work at all—and take action to make changes as necessary.
Be sure to review those findings as you create this year’s plan, and include a secondary option. 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. Creating agile contingency plans is a crucial step in the execution of any plan, as they allow you to build flexibility into your supply chain to overcome unanticipated challenges.
2. 10 weeks before: Finalize your holiday forecast
Planning for fresh produce is almost as cyclical as growing fresh produce—it never stops. Knowing what consumers want months in advance helps everyone—growers, carriers, and retailers alike—plan accordingly. Simply maintaining an ongoing cycle of “plan, review, and plan again” is a huge step in the right direction. After all, continual improvement creates consistency in both supply and execution.
3. 8 weeks before: Determine inventory flow strategy
In the weeks leading up to a holiday, many produce distribution centers run at maximum capacity to meet increased demands. Retailers need to know they won’t be faced with overstocks of one item or out of stocks for another. Proactive planning can help eliminate some of this uncertainty. For example, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, plan for increased demand in holiday-specific produce.
4. 6 weeks before: Communicate your final strategy
Communication within your own organization is critical. Educate your company about how weather affects capacity to avoid service failures and unmet expectations. Explain your plan for capacity this year. Will you ship early to avoid the rush? Leave inventory in strategic locations, balancing inventory carrying costs against (potentially) higher transportation rates?
5. 2-4 weeks before: Ship product in accordance with your plan
After planning, reviewing, and planning again, your holiday supply chain should be ready to roll. If an outside challenge does put a wrinkle in your plan, the multi-pronged supply chain solution you created in advance can help avoid out of stock situations.
A note about pricing
The market has been quite volatile this year, and the holiday surge will only escalate it. As you start your holiday planning, keep in mind that it might not be in your best interest to lock in a price now. Rather, get an estimate now and then revisit the matter as the season progresses—you’re more likely to receive a more accurate price and higher level of service based on a more real-time marketplace.
Make sure you’re prepared for the holiday surge. Connect with our produce and logistics experts to learn more about planning proactively, understanding consumer demand and trends, supporting an agile supply chain, identifying and solving capacity shortages, and creating consistency in both supply and execution.