You’ve heard of farm to table. Get ready now for quick flights of fresh, high-quality produce to grocery store displays.
That was the case recently in California, where produce provider Giumarra Cos. completed a test flight shipment to deliver peaches grown in the San Joaquin Valley to California-based grocery retailer Gelson’s.
The delivery method, while seemingly inefficient, reflects a broader trend in food retail (and other parts of commerce) of taking to the air to get products to consumers. The test also could be a sign to come about how to better match shoppers with high-quality produce.
For this test, three partial pallets with a total of 96 boxes of freshly harvested Henry III variety peaches flew on a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan aircraft for the approximately one-hour ride to Whiteman Airport in Los Angeles on Aug. 7.
John Corsaro, Giumarra CEO, and John Savidan, senior director of produce and floral for Gelson’s, greeted the peaches at the airport, after which the produce was delivered to four local Gelson’s stores in Valley Village, Sherman Oaks, Century City, and Pacific Palisades.
“As a grower, it is exciting to be able to offer consumers a piece of tree-ripe fruit the way nature intended,” said Tim Thiesen, grower for the Giumarra Companies. “This technology helped us swiftly bring a local farm stand experience to grocery stores more than 200 miles away.”
More Star Treatment
Upon reaching the stores, the peaches received even more star treatment.
The fruit took up station in the stores’ weekend produce displays featuring airplane mobiles and signs highlighting the tree-ripe flavor and exceptional “flown fresh from the farm” quality of those Henry III peaches. To accompany the in-store signage and merchandising, Gelson’s shared the message of the peaches’ unique delivery method with customers using geo-targeted digital marketing, including social media — another reflection of broader trends in food retail, where digital tools are increasing taking on more work.
“We are excited to be the first retailer in Giumarra’s test to offer this exclusive summer fruit to our loyal shoppers at select store locations,” said Rob McDougall, President and CEO of Gelson’s. “Our customers have come to expect Gelson’s to be on the leading edge of grocery innovation, and we are pleased to bring a new offering in the produce department that utilizes airplane technology to deliver enhanced flavor.”
Expect other such innovation in the grocery world, even if they might not involve what amounts to private airplane flights for fresh produce.
Gulf Coast food retail chain Rouses Markets, for instance, recently teamed up with Deuce Drone for a delivery pilot program this fall with an Aerial Drone Delivery Interface System (ADDIS) at the Rouses on Airport Boulevard in Mobile, Alabama. "Drone delivery offers the fastest, safest delivery store to door. We should be able to get groceries to customers in 30 minutes or even less," said Donny Rouse, CEO of Rouses Markets. "Plus it’s more cost efficient, meaning we can save customers time and money."
Rouses already offers personal shopping and delivery services that allow customers to shop online and get deliveries in as little as an hour, but drones could cut this time in half, or faster.
Rouses has 64 stores in Louisiana, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in lower Alabama. The company is No. 80 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America.
Founded in 1951, Gelson’s operates 27 supermarkets in Southern California.