In the heart of the Farr West Distribution Center, the AFS produce team recently concluded their annual produce category review meetings, a pivotal event that shapes the trajectory of fresh produce offerings for member owners of Associated Food Stores.  

These gatherings serve as a collaborative forum where the entire “One AFS” team, including member stores and corporate store representatives, comes together to evaluate and enhance key produce categories. This year’s schedule was particularly ambitious, covering apples, cherries, pears, mushrooms, value-added salad, mature citrus, domestic grapes and snacking tomatoes. 

The purpose of these reviews goes beyond mere evaluations; it is about ensuring that AFS delivers the highest quality produce to its stores at the most competitive prices. The meetings act as a strategic platform to contrast current programs with industry offerings, creating an environment where decisions are made collectively, benefiting both the team members and the independent member grocers. 

“These reviews are invaluable to our wholesale for many reasons, not the least of which is building relationships across the produce industry,” said Leigh Vaughn, AFS produce director. “These meetings also allow us to evaluate the supply chain from end to end, to make sure our partners can fulfill our product needs on a consistent basis.”  

The Mount Ogden room at the Farr West distribution center provided the perfect setting for this two-day event, where retailers and the produce leadership team engaged with suppliers, examined programs and explored opportunities for collaboration with growers and suppliers, especially in supporting the exclusive brand Basket and Bushel. 

For AFS wholesale, these reviews are indispensable. They not only facilitate relationship-building within the produce industry but also enable a comprehensive evaluation of the supply chain. The goal is to ensure partners can consistently fulfill product needs, maintaining a robust and reliable inventory. 

On the retail front, these reviews are strategically timed, allowing retail produce leadership from various banners, including Broulim’s, Lee’s, Ridley’s, ARO, The Market at Park City, Kent’s and others to actively participate.  

“The collaborative effort between wholesale and retail ensures the selection of programs and the creation of plans that can be showcased at the upcoming spring food show and beyond,” said Leigh. 

While these reviews occur annually, the commitment made with selected suppliers spans a minimum of two years. Each year, guided by the produce center of excellence (COE), AFS determines its needs, aligns with industry trends and identifies potential suppliers before extending invitations. In essence, these category reviews represent not just a meeting but a strategic investment in the growth and quality of AFS’ fresh produce offerings.