set of colorful fruits

Technology and confidence, keys for the success of the greengrocers of the future

25 Mar 2019

Visibility on the internet, online sales, social network management and electronic management of resources are some of the pillars on which the retail fruit and vegetable sales are based.

By Alejandro Toquero

Agri-food journalist

We live in a time of fast changes in which the productive sectors and companies are grappling for a position. Repositioning so as not to drop the ball and keep the value chain going Retails and consumers are combatants in this fight.

They are all swept up in a revolution - a digital revolution - one that does not wait for anyone, so the key is to hit the nail on the head and jump on the bandwagon. Carlos Bermejo, of the company Tintaymedia, has no doubts: "The future of small businesses lies in having visibility on the Internet, online sales and electronic resource management; If you base your business strategy on these pillars, you won't be left out".

In this global scenario, what happens with the fruit and vegetable sector? What do retailers to do win consumers' confidence? What models are being created or evolving around greengrocers beyond what supermarkets and superstores represent?... The technological greengrocer that is coming or that is already here. This could be the answer. A response that supports variants and that is related (or should be) to the global management of this type of business.

In the first place, consumers do not generally know how the fruit is bought, but this has an impact on profitability and service quality. Cándido Fernández is the owner of Muerde Vida. He has three greengrocers in Madrid and until a few months ago he was supplied following this model: "It took me three to four hours to receive the merchandise from the stores and the warehouse; create paper lists for each one and unify them taking into account that we work 250 references, in addition to answering dozens of calls and emails and putting the information on the lists ".

Six months ago, Carlos Bermejo's company developed a bespoke purchasing management system for this greengrocer. "At the click of a button he can see his stock of fruit, update the inventory, process orders and decide what to buy the following day. And once at Mercamadrid, manage the supply so that each dispatcher can see on his mobile phone where it has to go, pick up the product and take it to the corresponding store ".

What does all this mean? To start with, It gives the fruit seller more time to spend on his business and, especially, to be with customers and enhance the shopping experience. And another important fact: nothing gets forgotten and there's less waste.

The service consists of an online application and a mobile phone. "It has evolved and now we are using the fourth version, working at full capacity and adapted to the idiosyncrasies of each greengrocer. It's not an app that can be downloaded and used by any business; each one is unique, "says Bermejo.


As well as this improvement in backroom management, Cándido has also boosted online sales. He is not the only one. Alejandro González, manager of the Fruit and Vegetable Retailers Association of Madrid, says that " progress is slow but the future is there". "More and more professionals have websites that include payment gateways that can instantly adjust their prices according to the market," he continues, saying, being aware that another of the keys is to have a good home delivery service".

Alejandro González says that, when it comes to fresh produce and, especially, fruit and vegetables, "it is not easy to break with traditional buying habits. We are talking about living products, and people like to see, smell and feel their freshness. " So physical stores continue to be very important in this sector. "Customers wants to check that the fruit is in good condition, and that can only happen in the store"

The most important thing is to create trust. After that it is easier to take the next step: online sales. "Relationships with consumers must be based, above all, on quality," explains the owner of Muerde Vida, "when customers assume and believe s that you will not let them down, then they trust you and, yes, they become willing to place an order online without going to the store." They even trust the suggestions they receive from their fruit seller. Examples of this are the boxes of fruit and vegetables sold by Cándido Fernández, who includes the best of the season for his customers so that they can forget about everything (basic box, cream soups and purées, or traditional or tropical fruit ...) 

 Peel and portion

There are even more possibilities of what a techno-greengrocer is or could be. Arte a Bocados is one of them. This company was emerged from traditional business -Frutas Muniesa, with the intention of trying to find a solution to spoilage. Scuffing, falls, blows, rain, cold, heat... Fruit is subjected to all these dangers every day, so why not sell it cut or freshly squeezed juice. Eva had already seen some years previously that the habit of eating peeled and portioned fruit was well established in Europe, but that it was almost non-existent in Spain, and that's where it all began.

These days, many small retailers offer this service, which has found its niche market in the comfortable consumer who wants to make things easier, but also, and increasingly, among the elderly. The cold room at Arte a Bocados is packed every morning with washed borage and chard, vegetables ready to go on the grill, ready salads, trays for broth and all manner of cut fruits. In the latter case, if it will be eaten quickly it is placed in a blister pack, but if it is going to be kept for longer, the heat sealing machine is used, which is as important as the cash register in this business. Basic technology, but at the end of the day, technology.

In the physical store, this greengrocer pays a lot of attention to the shop window. And in the virtual store, to social networks. "There's no question that you have to be there", he says. Today's word of mouth is Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It isn't so much a question of selling through these platforms, but of making suggestions. We provide fruit recipes, nutritional tips, we suggest menus..." That's where another of Arte a Bocados' branches started growing: bespoke fruit centres and table arrangements for events.

In short, schemes that lend themselves to creating Instagram stories or opening YouTube channels. This is Eva Muniesa's most pressing goal... to stimulate her converted, techno-greengrocer's using digital marketing techniques and communication 3.0.

A box of fruit and vegetables from Muerde Vida containing the best seasonal produce.

Training and information

They also know a lot about implementing technology in the La Natural and La Huertaza organic product stores. In both cases, Internet sales are doing very well. According to owner Jesus Bayego they started by doing home deliveries using hybrid and electric vehicles to cut our carbon footprint to a minimum.

In 'ecological' structuring, one of the shortcomings is in the distribution, in the transfer of information between the producer and the store, and in improving the management of purchases to have a good supply of fruit and vegetables and so that the prices do not sky-rocket. "We are working to develop an app that improves this relationship to get a sufficient sample, but without losing sight of the fact that, above all, we focus on ecological products and proximity," he adds.

For these two businesses, social networks are another work tool. "Nowadays it is unthinkable not to use them," says David Olmo, of La Huertaza. He finds his website essential when it comes to shortening the distance from the consumer but, above all, the spreadsheet that he sends to his potential customers so that they can place their orders. All products are prices, and they fill them in and we send then to their homes. In the case of Jesús, the format used is the newsletter: "We include the products that we have just received, the offers and the activities that we developed; We send it to 7,000 and immediately notice how many people appear at the store to buy ". 

Jesús Bayego insists on the importance of creating this relationship of trust, "which we try to capture our clientèle through good products, service, information and training". And, he adds, "customers are increasingly demanding, they want to know the origin of each product, traceability, properties, how to cook it and,, for example, which vegetable has the most magnesium". In this store there is an internet access point available to customers with reference pages for checking this information. "Sales must be completely personalised," he concludes.

Combining wisdom with the digital and traditional world; forging the relationship with the buyer by providing quality raw materials; moving towards the idea of ​​personalised sales; adding to online sales information and training and, above all, pivoting the link between fruit seller/customer in confidence. These are probably the keys to the techno greengrocers of the future, and those that have already arrived.