The Fresh Market's Vic Savanello Discusses Plans for 2019 OPS
MONTEREY, CA - With July 10th and 11th on the horizon, it is never too early to start planning for the 4th annual Organic Produce Summit (OPS). The two-day event will bring a host of industry leaders together, from the supply-side to the buy-side, to talk shop about the important challenges in fresh produce as well as the opportunities gracing the sector.
Vic Savanello, Vice President of Produce for The Fresh Market, joins me as we look towards the summer show, with his own set of to-dos and what he hopes to discover at this year’s event.
“Organic continues to be an area generating great opportunities for growth at The Fresh Market,” Vic shares with me, adding that he is looking to develop a few contacts in a couple of key categories where The Fresh Market can continue to up its game. “Any insights that I can garner regarding variety and specialty items which might be available, is always at the front of my mind. The diverse exhibitor turnout ensures that our team will be able to have those important discussions about the impact of organic across the fresh produce industry.”
An event like OPS is essential to elevating the conversation around organics and Vic notes that often times the smaller organic suppliers are lost in the larger scale events in our industry.
“A show which features and focuses on the supplier with the utmost attention is long overdue and greatly appreciated by the industry. Also, the organic educational content far exceeds anything you would find in any of the many of the larger-scale events that I attend,” Vic tells me, “which I think is critical for the growth and success of the overall organic business.”
The Fresh Market defines its organic program as progressive and is an area of deep passion for Vic, as the company seeks to source some of the highest grade, best quality, highest spec offerings of organic items available. But also, The Fresh Market opts to carry an organic offering over a conventional substitute, in order to be in that business.
“This means that I will carry an organic version of an item when volume and shrink constraints dictate choosing one or the other. I want our products to be fresh and turn quickly. I’ll choose a lower margin on an organic SKU instead of carrying both an organic and conventional version of an item and creating shrink for both, or risk not being at peak quality on the shelf!” Vic reflects.
When I ask Vic how he sees consumer buying behaviors toward organic impacting the way consumers shop and build their overall basket, he shares that he thinks more consumers are choosing organic versions of items now that the cost and retail differential has become less imposing, simply based on appearance, size, or assumed quality.
“Organics are not exclusively just for the organic consumer anymore,” he says. “On the other hand, many more people are becoming a lot more informed on what is considered both healthy and safe and make buying decisions based off of what offers them the most consumer confidence.”
When it comes to how Vic is seeing consumer buying behaviors around organics changing or evolving in his own backyard or the industry as a whole, one interesting dynamic he notices is the behaviors around the consumer that purchases both organic and conventional produce in the same basket. This is, Vic believes, a consumer that feels there are some categories of fresh fruits and vegetables that they have a comfort level with as conventional and some that they do not, and opt for the organic option.
While there is much more I would like to pick Vic’s brain about, I realize I might want to leave some of the insights and questions for his participation at OPS’ Retailer Roundtable where the group will dive into organic produce category strategies, product mix, and how technology is changing the game. Tonya Antle, Co-Founder of the Organic Produce Network (OPN) will act as moderator for the Retailer Roundtable that will include panelists Don Barnett, Chief Operating Officer for Sun Basket; Greg Corrigan, Senior Director of Produce and Floral for Raley’s; and Vic himself.
So, looking for a bit more from Vic as well? Mark your calendars for the OPS 2019!