retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

Pretty much all of my weeks are pretty good, but some are better than others. You can tell by looking around that this is one of the better ones ... I'm in Chatham, Massachusetts, to talk to the New England Produce Council and moderate a panel discussion with various retailers about how an evolving and competitive marketplace is affecting the produce business. After all, fresh fruits and vegetables represent a category where food stores - and that's what supermarkets are supposed to be - can really differentiate themselves.

It seems to me that, based on my conversations with the folks on my panel, that perhaps the most important item that retailers and suppliers have to offer is information.

That's not to say that the quality of the fresh fruits and vegetables being sold is secondary. Far from it. In fact, quality ought to be a sort of a given when we're talking about this category.

But information, in many ways, is the glue that holds everything together. It is the information that you give consumers about the items you're selling, and how to eat and/or prepare them. It is the information that you give to the store employees on the front lines, so they know something about what they're selling other than this is how it is stacked and this is what it costs. It is about using both traditional and non-traditional venues to reach out to consumers, to tickle their fancies, provoke their interest, stimulate their imaginations.

There's a lot of competition in this segment ... mostly because everybody knows that fruits and vegetables done well can be an enormous differential advantage. There's everything from Whole Foods to Sprouts, Community Supported Agriculture to Amazon Fresh. There are traditional food chains and coops and all manner of retailers who have decided that they want to serve as the consumers's source of great fruits and vegetables.

That the products have to be of high quality goes without saying ... except that I'm saying it. But that they have to be explained and sampled and described and defined and put into the larger context of how the consumer lives ... well, that ought to go without saying, too...except that I'm saying it.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: