COVID-19 lockdowns and the closure of foodservice and hospitality establishments in Victoria have meant more supply for fruit and vegetable retailers during the winter period.
Director at Alexanders Fruit Market Oakleigh, David Zahlan, says there has been especially good availability of two staple vegetables: cauliflower and broccoli.
"Cauliflower volumes are particularly good," he said. "Plenty of stock around. They're sourced out of Werribee in Victoria. The weather has been strong, plenty of water, sun. And with the closure of restaurants, there's been an extra supply, which is finding its way through to retail, which has kept volume high while prices low. Broccoli volumes have also been super strong, and quality has been fantastic. They're sourced out of Werribee at the moment. Demand is good. With the closures of restaurants, again, there's been an abundance of supply and prices are low, so people are eating them and having consistent supply with low volatility in pricing, which has been super good for us over the winter."
Photos courtesy: David Zahlan LinkedIn
He added that limited travel, and the prevention of the mass exodus to the northern hemisphere summer, has kept a lot of people in Victoria, which has kept trade "super strong" for Alexanders Fruit Market.
"What we're noticing is with people cooking at home in general, and wanting to eat cleaner and better, cauliflower and broccoli have been at a price point which is favourable," Mr Zahlan said. "Just across the board, we're finding that people are generally buying a little bit of everything. The fact that they're cooking so much at home, they're just cooking a lot more variety, willing to try an openness to new products, and just overall people are enthused to cook at home again. And we're seeing that through our sales, we're seeing it through consumers we're talking to, retail's very strong."
While the company did lose a fair proportion of its existing customer base when the second Victorian lockdown began in August, Mr Zahlan says it has been able to reintroduce itself to customers that generally had a '9 to 5' job and would shop, as a convenience factor, after hours.
"Our new customers have increased dramatically. So, for us, it's been fantastic," Mr Zahlan said. "We're one of the fortunate ones that have been lucky to have increased sales and customers. Our customers' basket price is well up and our consumer numbers are well up. Our major focus was to provide a clean, safe environment that tried to remove as much of the anxiety of being around people as possible. And that was always been our focus from the way we cleaned the stores to the way the staff was protected to mopping the floors four, five times a day with a citrus scent to create an environment that removed that anxiety and a place that people could get out on a daily and make it part of their daily shop."
Mr Zahlan explains that he is finding that people are really embracing cooking at home and making shopping more than a chore.
“It becomes part of a daily or a weekly ritual that people are starting to enjoy again, and open to wanting to try, and talking to their fruiterers,” he said. “And we see it with the way that they're conversating with our staff, that they're embracing it as something that they can get, buy-into and enjoy. The COVID situation has shown, at least for us, if you focus on your customer, provide an environment that's inviting, the atmosphere and ambience that provides a place that people can enjoy coming to, it’s really to your benefit.”