Taking a Fresh Look at Our Produce

By Dorn Wenninger
September 29, 2014
Growers' Stories - Hronis Farms - thumbnail

Every day, Bryan Duarte spends much of his time looking for the biggest, crunchiest, most flavorful grapes around — at the best price.

Bryan, a senior sourcing manager at our West Coast Global Food Sourcing office in Valencia, California, is part of a team of produce experts tracking down top-quality fruits and vegetables around the country. You can see him working in this video about the Hronis Grape Farm, part of a series of stories we’ve filmed to tell customers about how we’re ensuring Walmart is providing the freshest produce possible.

Until four years ago, all produce sourcing happened from our Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas. But we’ve since opened five new Global Food Sourcing offices across the U.S. in the most important growing regions.  The result? Higher-quality produce grown closer to where it’s sold. Closer connections to Walmart from farm to store. And, most importantly, more satisfied customers.

Growing Local
Our food sourcing offices are just one innovation in our focus on high-quality produce. Other steps we’ve taken include buying more local produce (crops grown and sold in the same state), cutting supply chain costs, improving associate training, and talking even more with our customers.

In 2010, we committed to doubling sales of local produce by 2015. Within the first year, sales of locally grown crops were up by 97%. And now, with one year left, we’re well on track to meet this goal by our deadline. We’ve made significant improvements in a short amount of time, and our customers are responding positively.

Rebuilding the Supply Chain
Walmart didn’t sell produce until the mid-1980s; our distribution systems were originally designed for merchandise that could sit in warehouses. Today, Walmart is the world’s largest produce retailer. More than half of our $279.4 billion U.S. sales come from grocery items, and more than three in four of our stores sell fresh produce.

As hundreds of our stores add produce departments and increase their assortments, we’ve been working on improving the way that merchandise gets there. In 1995, there were only two distribution centers in the U.S. supplying fresh food to stores. Now there are 42.

Being in close proximity to everywhere, as I like to say, allows Walmart to cut miles between the farm and the consumer. In the last 18 months, we’ve cut more than a day out of the supply chain. That means our customers are buying produce more than a day fresher than it was before.

Quality Guaranteed
Walmart has also taken steps to improve the quality of produce once it arrives at stores. In June 2013, we started offering a money-back guarantee on produce to show customers we stand behind our promise to offer high-quality fruits and vegetables.

Around the same time, we also started regular produce checks in each of our more than 3,400 Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets that sell produce. 

We’ve been telling our customers about these achievements through new ad campaigns, labeling, and social media. These have helped increase knowledge of seasonal differences, unique local products, and Walmart’s local presence. Take a look at the rest of our videos, visit your local store, and let us know what you think!