Marketing Greenhouse Vegetables To Grocery Stores

Most of you have seen an increase in the marketing of local produce at grocery stores — not just in small, independent groceries but in the big chains as well. It seems like a great opportunity for a greenhouse grower looking for a new market to sell its produce. It can be a very competitive one, however. We asked Water Fresh Farm’s Jeff Barton — who does a nice business with local groceries — how he does it.  

Greenhouse Grower: How tough was it for you to get your produce into grocery stores? Is this a difficult market to crack compared to other outlets?

Barton: It was certainly more difficult to get into a grocery chain (as opposed to independent grocers) years ago than it is now. I like to think that local is the new organic. Consumers want local because the perceived quality is better compared to nameless agribusiness, and they want to support local farmers.

It makes them feel good about themselves. If the local produce is pesticide-free — even if it isn’t certified organic — all the better. All grocery stores are trying to react to this change in consumer dynamics and welcome as much locally grown produce as possible. Take a walk through the store and look at all the signs announcing local and even photos of local farmers.

GG: What’s the best way to approach grocery stores about buying your produce?

Barton: My suggestion would be to speak first with the produce manager of a local store, letting him/her know about your offerings. Some store produce managers may have the ability to make buying decisions from local farmers; for others, the decision will be kicked up to the regional produce manager or buyer. Again, they are looking for local products, so they should be receptive to you.

GG: Do grocery stores have any additional expectations or requirements as far as food safety or handling for your produce above what you would have in your own retail market?

Barton: This is going to be more of a challenge for small farms in the future with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) regulations. Some large chains already require farms to be GAP certified. While others may not require GAP certification, they generally are in agreement that GAP is coming. While we are not GAP certified yet, all of our operational practices meet the guidelines. We haven’t sought certification because the time and cost of the mountain of paperwork. GAP definitely warrants watching.

GG: What kind of pricing and delivery issues do you have to consider?

Barton: When we first started selling to the grocery chains, they were used to buying at whatever the market price was, which fluctuated almost daily. While much of the produce the large grocery chains purchase today is still bought at the current market price, they are more open to established pricing, which makes it more predictable for both the farmer and the grocer. That said, the grocery chain buyer’s job is to purchase quality produce at the lowest price possible. However, my experience is that if they are talking to the farmer directly, buyers are likely to be more flexible.

As for delivery, we deliver to each store twice a week. We do this to ensure that the quality of our produce is good and to minimize shrink, which the produce manager appreciates. Reduced shrink keeps the grocer’s margins high and high margins help maintain support from the produce manager.

GG: Do you do any marketing to help the grocery stores sell your produce?

Barton: Our experience has been that the grocery chains have been aggressive at helping the farmer produce Point of Purchase (POP) material. Consumers want that local connection to the farmer and promoting that helps the grocer. We try to work with the marketing department of the grocery chains to make signs and other materials since they have both the experience and budget for this sort of thing.

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
Dual Income No Kids (DINK) Young Couple

April 10, 2018

Make Plans to Attend the NICH Annual Conference in Atlanta in June

Everyone in every aspect of consumer horticulture is invited to attend and help create a unified, strategic plan around industry-wide priorities.

Read More
Vegetables-from-PanAmerican-feature

April 8, 2018

How You Can Respond to Complex Consumer Demands for Fresh Veggies

If you want to sell greenhouse-grown fresh vegetables for a profit, set yourself apart from the competition.

Read More
Banker-Plants-at-Thiels

March 19, 2018

Bug Your Customer About Biocontrols

Getting customers educated about your biocontrol use and using it to build your brand is all about telling your story in way that attracts attention.

Read More
Latest Stories
Dual Income No Kids (DINK) Young Couple

April 10, 2018

Make Plans to Attend the NICH Annual Conference in Atla…

Everyone in every aspect of consumer horticulture is invited to attend and help create a unified, strategic plan around industry-wide priorities.

Read More
Banker-Plants-at-Thiels

March 19, 2018

Bug Your Customer About Biocontrols

Getting customers educated about your biocontrol use and using it to build your brand is all about telling your story in way that attracts attention.

Read More

March 11, 2018

National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture Releases …

A new series of four #PlantsDoThat Inside infographics focuses on the multitude of ways indoor plants affect where we live, where we work, where we heal, and where we learn. The first two infographics are now available.

Read More
Garden-Tribe-Monrovia

February 27, 2018

8 Trends Influencing the Garden World in 2018

Expert trend watchers at Monrovia predict that suburban plant hunters, garden coaching, and perfect pines will be just a few of the top consumer gardening demands in 2018.

Read More
Amazon-Online-Plant-Store

February 7, 2018

The Latest on Amazon’s Online Plant Store

There is debate throughout the industry over how Amazon’s presence will affect growers who are looking to sell plants online.

Read More
Nature-Hills-Nursery-Plant-Shipping-feature

February 2, 2018

How You Can Tackle Online Plant Sales

Selling your products online can open up a new revenue stream, but there are several factors you need to consider along the way.

Read More
Max-Luthy-TPIE-keynote

January 18, 2018

TPIE Keynote Maxwell Luthy Turns Trends Into Opportunit…

Maxwell Luthy, Director of Trends & Insights for TrendWatching, showed how to turn trends into business prospects for attendees of the 2018 Tropical Plant International Expo keynote address.

Read More
NGB Year of the Tulip

December 23, 2017

How You Can Participate in Promoting National Garden Bu…

Promotional materials for the National Garden Bureau’s four “Year of the” crops for 2018 are now available. The materials are designed to help growers and garden retailers encourage consumers to discover and embrace new, exciting crops each year.

Read More
Petal-it-Forward

October 3, 2017

October 11 is Your Chance to Petal it Forward

The Society of American Florists’ “Petal it Forward” campaign returns in 2017. Learn how you can participate in this day of spreading kindness through flowers.

Read More
Micandy Gardens Team

September 17, 2017

4 Ways Micandy Gardens Greenhouses Reaches Out to Mill…

Micandy leverages social media to get the word out about its products and spread the word about how flowers can make a difference in people’s lives.

Read More
Costa Farms Exotic Angel Idea Book

September 12, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Lookbook Offers Consumers Ideas on Bes…

The new “Bring Your Home to Life” lookbook is a curated collection of more than 300 unique plant varieties best suited to grow in homes and offices.

Read More
Certified American Grown Flowers

September 5, 2017

Certified American Grown Flowers Names New Third-Party …

The organization’s new partnership with Where Food Comes From Inc., an agriculture-focused certification company with more than 20 years of experience, will be launched via video conference on September 14.

Read More
Container Gardening

September 5, 2017

14 Consumer Gardening Trends That Have Stood the Test o…

In early September, the Garden Media Group will unveil its 2018 Garden Trends report. To whet your appetite, here’s a look back at several trends that remain relevant today.

Read More

August 29, 2017

Know Your Grower: New Platform Brings Consumer Transpar…

The new Follow Your Flower or Plant vignette from MPS allows consumers to learn all about the producers of the plants and flowers they see at retail, and how sustainably their products are grown.

Read More
green-plan-it-gardening-outdoor-nature-explore-classroom

August 29, 2017

First-Of-Its-Kind Federal Grant Designed to Stimulate C…

The National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture has received a USDA grant to help develop strategies and tactics to grow the practice of gardening 20% by 2025.

Read More
Luxfloraflowerrun17

July 20, 2017

Luxflora Attracted Even More Participation to its Secon…

More than 170 runners kicked off Cultivate'16 on Sunday, July 16, with Luxflora's second annual 5k race. It was a great way to start the week, participants said.

Read More
National Garden Bureau 2018 Year of the Calibrachoa

July 15, 2017

National Garden Bureau Announces Featured Plants for it…

Plant classes recognized include bulb crops (tulip), annuals (calibrachoa), vegetables/edibles (beet), and perennials (coreopsis).

Read More
cut flower arrangement

July 5, 2017

Congress Designates July as American Grown Flowers Mont…

Last week, Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) introduced a bipartisan resolution designating July as “American Grown Flowers Month.” Co-sponsored by Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50), Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Rep. Don Young (AK-1), Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02), and Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49), House Resolution 413 declares July as the month to celebrate the economic and cultural impact of America’s cut flower and greens farmers and demonstrate Congress’ commitment to support America’s flower farming families. Congressman Carbajal spoke from the House Floor, introducing the legislation and encouraging fellow members of Congress to support American Grown Flowers Month. “I have seen firsthand the value the grown flower industry adds to our economy and communities during my visits with our Central Coast growers,” said Rep. Carbajal. “California produces three quarters of all cut flowers grown in the United States. I am committed to recognizing their contribution […]

Read More