How can we keep pace with a changing retail landscape? How can buyers and growers establish fruitful and long-term partnerships to ensure sustainable, accessible and affordable produce?

We asked six global leaders about connecting retailers, buyers and growers and maintaining consumer loyalty.

Scott KomarSenior Vice President of Global R&D, DRISCOLL’S, USA: “Fresh berries sales continue to drive the produce category growth not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also historically for the past ten years. We believe the foundation of our success is attributable to our mission of delighting our consumers. Flavor is the number one purchase driver, and our brand is built on the trust of delivering on that flavor promise.”

Sara Segergren, Sustainable Innovation Leader, IKEA, SWEDEN: “New and emerging technology for growing in an urban environment that is both easy to install and operate, creates prerequisites for new players to enter the market of growing produce, whether it is a retail operation company like IKEA or individuals that grow in their homes. There are some clear environmental as well as health benefits to be gained from growing crops locally in a controlled environment compared to conventional growing methods such as less land water use, pesticides and no or little transportation that results in more nutritious produce and minimal food waste.

At IKEA we believe that what is good for people and the planet is also good for business and with the development that has been ongoing within the industry during the past few years we see a real opportunity of being able to integrate urban farming solutions in our food business offering healthier and more sustainable food at affordable prices for many people.

Indoor farming is an area that is rapidly developing in terms of technology, cost, efficiency and scalability. Therefore it’s very important to have a close relationship with our partners to ensure that we can meet the needs of our business and eventually our customers the best way possible. I believe that it is only by working together, combining different capabilities and share the know-how, that we can create a movement. We need to develop and test solutions, learn from mistakes and constantly look for ways to improve our ways of working in order to secure affordability and accessibility for the future.”

Ville Jylhä, COO, PIRKANMAA COOP, FINLAND: “Customers are searching for local, ultra-fresh and ecological products without forgetting reasonable price level. Indoor production is matching with all these themes and offers an impressive customer experience at the same time.

The future of retail brings many new technological breakthroughs and much more experiential stores. We have only seen a surface of instore cultivation and its possibilities. With instore vertical growing cabinets, we can promote these new quality products in a great way. Larger instore vertical farms can also be seen in Finland in the future.”

Liliana Esposito, Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, WENDY’S, USA: “The ability to grow fresh, flavorful produce with little or no chemical pesticides is very compelling to consumers. They care a lot about what they put in their bodies. They also care about the world around them and the significant reduction in water and land use intensity of indoor agriculture is a benefit as well.

Consumers love to see that a product they’re consuming was made or grown nearby for local pride. But the close proximity also tells them that the product didn’t travel too far and wasn’t heavily handled or processed. That just reinforces attributes like freshness and high quality that are so important to consumers.”

Tim Heydon, CEO, SHENANDOAH GROWERS, USA: “Start by viewing the business from the consumer in, rather than operations out to build the right mindset.  Invest in insights work to develop a deep understanding of who your consumer is (and equally important, who is not) so you can focus on how to best meet their needs and establish trust that can lead to an enduring relationship.

Developing actionable insights is not a one and done proposition. Then you have a way to consistently filter decisions with the potential impact on that all important consumer relationship. Whether that is starting a new crop, changing packaging, evaluating distribution opportunities, or developing a marketing campaign.”

Sean WalshNorth America Director of Fruits, Vegetables and Dairy, GORDON FOOD SERVICE, USA: “The leading rational for adding indoor grown products to your portfolio includes freshness, consistency and food safety. These attributes have always been critical to the procurement solutions and strategies for buyers. Indoor agriculture inherently has advantages in all these facets. Combine those inherent advantages with significant innovation and investment in an indoor agricultural capacity and the result is a product which meets the needs of the consumer, operator and distributor.

True partnership, more so than duration, is critical to establishing and maintaining consumer loyalty. By partnership, I mean open and candid discussions between a buyer and grower regarding each other’s needs and expectations and then ultimately those of the consumer. Agreeing together on what those consumer needs and expectations are and treating that as your “northstar” creates common goals. Striving together to deliver it drives success for all.”

Join the retailers, buyers and growers at the virtual Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit including: Sean Walsh at Gordon Food Service, Sara Segergen at IKEA, Davide Del Boco at Sodexo and Veronica Lumy at Lazada speaking on the panel: ‘Buyers and Growers: Establishing a Successful Partnership’ at 12.50pm EST on Thursday June 24. 

On Friday June 25 – Scott Komar at Driscoll’s and Liliana Esposito at Wendy’s will speak on the panel: “The Customer is King: Bridging the Gap Between Farm and Fork” at 15.40 EST. Ville Jylhä at Pirkanmaa Coop and Ben Hartman at Good Eggs will discuss ‘Keeping Pace with a Changing Retail Landscape’ at 16.20 EST.