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Stay on your toes, the e-revolution is coming

ANAHEIM, CA — The e-revolution is changing the produce industry, including how product is grown and tracked as well as how consumers make purchases.

“As landscapes change, the things you’ll need to do in order to compete will change,” Kevin Coupe of said at an educational session titled "The Innovation Conversation: How to Survive the e-Revolution” held at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit, here.

The session, co-hosted by Tom Furphy, formerly of Wegmans and, discussed the disruptive force that online shopping could have on the produce department’s conventional purchases.

Key advantages are the digital platform’s same-day delivery and ease of purchase, as options can include automatic fulfillments for which customers can set and adjust time periods for products to automatically be sent out (i.e. a weekly delivery of a bunch of large, green bananas).

One significant challenge is living up to the expectations of a consumer. When a person places an order online, he or she is looking at a photo of an ideal product.

“Anything less than that perfect product shot is a disappointment,” Mr. Furphy said.

As a result, quality expectations have to be almost “unreasonably high,” which is harder to maintain as digital purchases of produce scale up.

The two men noted that the e-commerce changes to the status quo don’t mean the demise for traditional marketplaces, but they do mean retailers must step up their game and look to engage customers.

“Every marketer has a responsibility to be relevant for consumers,” said Mr. Coupe.

Markets must figure out and fill the changing needs of those consumers. To compete with this digital disruption, some stores have begun using virtual marketplaces to connect shoppers to growers, or to give shoppers the opportunity to create shopping lists or place orders to be picked up or delivered.

While online produce purchases are already here, there is no telling how successful the current model will be. What is certain is that it will change how consumers look at their produce and how product is marketed. As Messrs. Coupe and Furphy noted, those who fail to address these changes will be left behind.