As Giampiero Gasparro (in the photo), Fruit and Vegetable manager for Nordiconad, told FreshPlaza, "Despite the fact that there is no sign of a recovery, our August 2013 sales haven't changed much from those of August 2012, +3.53% corresponding to +4.87% in absolute terms (considering all of the stores, including the new openings). Analysing the data from January to August, the value is +4.60% and the total value jumps to +6.23%, whereas the absolute average price registers +3.38%."
These numbers are rather atypical, and the manager links them to an incisive and territorial policy to promote sales supported by the national support plan to counter inflation thanks to the three cornerstones of "value for money", i.e. proximity to families and a flexible service, brands (representing quality and food safety), price and quality (highlighting seasonal and local products).
"Fresh produce is no longer a simple section, but is at the basis of our Strategic Plan to improve productivity. The potential expressed by the range of local products is a plus, especially by the premium "Sapori&Dintorni" range, as can be seen thanks to the "Frutta e ortaggi che parlano piemotese" campaign, the projects promoted by the "Consorzio di Valorizzazione dei Prodotti Tipici della Liguria (which relies on brands such as "Orto sul Mare" for vegetables and "Terrazze sul Mare" for oil and wine) and the short chain programmes combined with the in-store presence of producers from Emilia-Romagna."
In the photo: Walter Sechi, Product Technician for Ligura, Aldo Pisano, Chairman of Nordiconad and Giampiero Gasparro, Produce manager for Nordiconad.
But the support for demand cannot avoid dealing with other factors such as the weather, which affected demand with low temperatures in September. "We have entered a downward phase, take potatoes for example, a popular vegetable. The weather not only affected production, which has decreased despite a 10% increase in cultivated surfaces, but also lowered prices."
Therefore, agriculture has to deal with both bad weather and the economy and, at the same time, has had to interact and educate consumers. Just think about the new product devised by the Cso-Centro servizi ortofrutticoli i.e. holographic panels and touch screen totems to interact with clients in supermarkets. Gasparro commented that "innovation is fundamental for the evolution of stores. Our mission is in fact based on the group of retailers that, in the 1960s, put professionalism at the centre of their companies. That's where Conad's values are from, offering qualified services to meet the needs of clients, care for products and personnel training. Customer retention and satisfaction is all the more important in the produce section. To us, the best innovation is tradition, that's all: being people beyond things."