Meeting The Needs Of Your Customers & Your Budget In The Produce Department

Many customers of large supermarkets are appalled when they come upon employees systematically dumping large amounts of lettuce and other fresh items into the trash. As a new produce department manager in a smaller store, you don't have this luxury. Your budget is much more limited, and your boss wants you to avoid throwing away produce items because that costs money. You need strategies to manage your store's limited space capacity and relatively small number of customers while also cutting costs as much as possible.

Fresh Produce Waste 

As a produce department manager, you have the chance to help reduce food waste in this country -- even if your impact seems to be a small one. Supermarkets dispose of about $15 billion in produce annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Precise Management

You need to more precisely manage wholesale produce deliveries to fit the buying habits of your customers. It can be a difficult puzzle, especially because everything is variable. Some of your customers have very predictable buying behaviors, but most probably don't. They may:

  • occasionally or routinely shop at other grocery stores.
  • typically shop elsewhere but suddenly become a regular customer at your store.
  • abruptly quit eating processed food and switch to a diet of fresh food.
  • move away and never shop there again.

The best you can do is keep track of the average movement of your perishable food items and accommodate your customers accordingly. Learn whether your boss prefers you to err on the side of running out of certain items occasionally or having to throw some away. 

Complementary Solutions

Rather than dumping produce when it starts to wilt a little or become overripe, you can continue sprucing some of it up with mist and offer it at a discount.

Items that don't respond to misting, such as avocados and bananas, can be sold at half price if they start to become overripe. 

Bagged lettuce also can be cut in price as it reaches the "best by" date to entice customers with savings. Smaller grocery stores often place a low-price sticker on bags that have reached the expiration date to at least get some of the cost back without dumping them altogether. 

Your wholesale produce supplier is happy to be flexible with your orders. You can change your standing orders as often as you want to in order to more precisely manage your costs and profit. With added attention to detail and discount pricing when necessary, you can keep your customers and your supervisor satisfied with your performance.