Another wave of COVID in Australia has seen reports of empty supermarket shelves. Staff shortages and supply chain issues have been reported as the reason behind this, but this is not the case at independent retailers or local fruit and veg stores.
"There is no shortage of supply of fresh produce in South Australia. In South Australia we are fortunate to have a produce bowl on our doorstep, explains Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager SA Produce Market. "Of course, we have seasonal supply issues – items are only abundant when in season – but there is plenty of fresh produce being grown in South Australia to be able to stock the markets with an abundant choice of fruit and vegetables."
Of course, the wholesale markets and independent retailers are not immune to the staff shortage issue the world is facing at the moment.
"There are staff who have contracted COVID that need time off due to being unwell and people that are close contacts that are in isolation. However, they are coping as every other industry is. Those that can turn up are working twice as hard to cover for those that can’t. This is an industry with a strong work ethic who will just dig deeper into their reserves," said Penny.
The South Australian Produce Market is open for independent retailers to purchase their fresh produce six days a week. Most retailers come 3-4 days a week. Larger retailers may come every day – depending on the store.
"The tradition of retailers coming to the markets every day and walking the floor to order their stock is reducing as technology offers more efficient ordering processes. Phone, text, email orders have been common for many years and the SA Produce Market has this year invested in an online ordering system powered by FreshO to streamline the ordering system online.
"However the quality retailers will still want to walk the market floor to see, taste, and feel the quality of the produce that they are buying."
There has been a slight increase in the market share of independent retailers during Covid which indicates that consumers are making a more conscious buying decision to support local and shop at their local fruit and veg store.
"Social sentiment certainly has been supportive of local family businesses and supporting the local economy during the pandemic. One of the advantages of buying from a local fruit and veg store is the quality of the produce they stock – a result of the much simpler supply change they have in place. A retailer can stock a mushroom on his shelf at 8am on a morning that has been picked at the farm just the day before. The time between paddock to shelf is much reduced when buying from an independent as the produce does not go into a distribution center before heading to the storefront. The quality and freshness are therefore the result of that supply chain. Consumers will find their produce lasts a lot longer."
According to Penny the local grocers and independents can also compete on price and are very competitive. However, a local greengrocer is not driven by price but rather by providing high-quality, fresh produce that meets their customers’ needs.
"They can provide a much wider variety of produce and they provide personalized service that you can not get from a large supermarket. Where a customer does pay a higher price they are getting a higher quality product that is going to stay fresher for longer. Buying from their local means much less wastage which in the long run is more economical. I think consumers are becoming more conscious buyers and will see the benefits of shopping local and want to continue."