GSI Blog

How to Revolutionize a Rusty Supply Chain Model

March 8, 2022

The Conflict in the Ukraine. COVID-19. Port backups. Labor Shortages. Rising Inflation. These are the explanations discussed in the media when we talk about the problems along the global supply chain. No person could doubt that a combination of these issues is causing an environment of high prices and product shortages at retail.  

But think back to 2018. Were we working within the best system for the American consumer? Or would we still be faced with a system plagued with problems below the surface? A growing number of industry experts are seeing cracks in the current supply chain. To understand why, let’s first visualize the fresh produce supply chain.  

The above graphic outlines how produce currently gets to a consumer’s shopping cart. Each link is tied to another to form a linear model that creates the bonds which deliver items to the end consumer. Historically, this model worked well to meet consumer demands. Growers planted seeds in the ground that yielded a crop within 1-10 years. Retailers bought the crop and sold it at market. At the end of the season, retailers would assess sales, share that information back with growers, and growers would change their models based on feedback. It was a system that worked well to bring consumers the goods they wanted at the lowest possible prices.  

But today, businesses across the supply chain are facing a consumer demand that evolves more quickly than ever before. The process that worked before is now too slow to fully meet consumer demands. As a result, retailers are making supply decisions based on demands that can change in an instant. In the produce space, this presents a particularly nuanced challenge due to the pivot time required to make changes to agricultural development.  

So how can a grower or produce marketer adapt to the rapidly changing consumer demand? For all of us at GoldenSun Insights, the answer is to become hyper-focused on the end consumer.  

Typically, this type of statement generates an immediate reaction from the grower/shipper community. It generates questions such as, “How do I focus on the end consumer when I don’t sell to them,” and “Aren’t I already consumer centric?” 

A grower/shipper appears relatively early on the supply chain. The unintentional result of this positioning is that sometimes the retailers’ needs come before those of the consumer. While retailers’ needs can’t be ignored, the consumers are the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to your product’s success. Retailers make many of their decisions based on historical data. Growers need to be the innovators and the innovation needs to be driven by today’s projected consumer trends.  

So how can a consumer centric model be adopted? It starts with a change in how you see the supply chain. Instead of seeing each part of supply as a separate link that leads to the consumer, see each link as a part of the process that centers around the consumer. This reimaging provides a broader view of the supply chain that goes beyond the link before and in front of you.   

After you reimagine the chain, that’s when opportunities truly open up. The road to becoming a consumer-focused operation doesn’t come easy. It involves knowing the data behind your consumer, understanding how your produce carries through the entire supply chain, and becoming an expert at marketing it to a whole different audience. We have insights to make the end consumer at the center of what you do. Follow along for more articles about operating in a consumer-focused supply chain.