Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is hoping greener greens in its produce section will help maintain its place at the top of U.S. produce suppliers.
During a call with media Monday, the retailer reiterated its commitment to refund money on produce if customers are not completely satisfied with the quality and freshness of their fruits and vegetables. The promise is backed with a new plan for buying produce directly from growers and maximizing the use of its trucking systems to get it to stores more quickly.
The initiative eliminates the middle man and gives produce more time in Wal-Mart’s produce section, and hopefully, in the hands of customers, said Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of the food business for Wal-Mart U.S. The company hopes to double its sales of locally grown produce by December 2015. Sinclair defined “locally grown” as being procured in the same state where the produce is sold.
One could say Wal-Mart is going farming.
The company has hired produce experts to work directly with farmers in the key growing regions where Wal-Mart has produce buying offices. Building relationships in these regions,and sending associates into the field to work with farmers, has made it possible for the company to hand-pick the best growers. Wal-Mart already sources produce in all 50 states.
In addition, independent teams will conduct weekly checks of produce in each of the company’s more than 3,400Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Express Stores that sell produce.
And to make sure there’s no glitch under the produce sprinklers, the company recently started a training program for 70,000 employees featuring a “new produce school” where store managers, market managers and produce department managers learn more about handling produce and identifying good veggies from bad.