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Pundit’s Mailbag — Buyers Lecturing Again

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, November 29, 2006

Sometimes the Pundit feels absolutely ancient. Perhaps we just started young, but some of the things people say are just so odd if you know the history.

This correspondent is another ancient soul on the production side who gets sick at the notion that buyers are going to lecture him about food safety. He gives a little history right here:

Glad to see you are keeping debate going about the buyer letter which really upset me.

I distinctly remember being in a meeting at the old NAFPP [Editor’s Note: National Association of Fresh Produce Processors which became the International Fresh-cut Produce Association which merged into the United Fresh Produce Association] and all the major processors were talking about ‘best if used by’ dates and how we needed to be responsible because if someone put 18 days versus another at 16 days just to compete — knowing they couldn’t realistically get 18 — then it would kill the entire category and future sales because consumers would have a bad experience. So we all agreed on the 14-16 day range and now today you can see most of us even put it in the right, upper hand corner to ease rotation for store personnel and consumers.

The retailers balked big time! They were furious and wanted NO expiration dates anywhere. Better yet, some told us to use a Julian Calendar date. Now what shopper walks around with a Julian Calendar?

My point is — it was the processors that drove this initiative and we were met with tremendous reluctance from buyers. They didn’t even want to buy the proper upright cases to merchandise the product in. They wanted us to buy them!

Granted the signatories of today’s letter probably weren’t around to remember this, but I was and I do.

It is clear that the buyers don’t really perceive how offensive to many on the production side their efforts are. This is partly because of the implication that buyers care about food safety and producers do not and partly because the history of these issues is that the buyer community has traditionally, as the story above points out, resisted all efforts to increase safety that might increase retail shrink or cost retailers money.

The Pundit sat through plenty of meetings hearing retailers not trying to enlighten consumers but, instead, trying to trick them.

By the way the Pundit remembers Dave Stidolph preening with pride as he told the Pundit years ago that it was none other than Joe Nucci who originated the idea of putting that date in the upper right hand corner of the package.

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