The wholesaler /distributor model fits very well with the vendor consolidation movement that we see among major corporate purchasers of fresh produce. The rising cost of fuel, the scarcity of truck drivers and the time delays caused by multiple pickups and multiple stops on LTL transportation makes this business model very attractive.
Full loads of produce – one pick, one drop – can be brought into a wholesaler’s operation, cross-docked and redistributed on local routes, maximizing the cube and increasing the utility of the regional distribution trucks. It’s amazing how what was old becomes new again. While the concept is not high in priority on most people’s mind, you would be amazed what would happen if you asked your wholesaler what he could do to help you – drive costs out of a system, improve your turns and rotation and offer new products that might only have limited availability or accessibility.
Regional produce markets evolved as food hubs, allowing rail cars of product to be efficiently moved across the country to regional distribution points. Not surprisingly, the local movement is finding the need for food hubs to aggregate and distribute the bounty from regional growers. The only issue is that many groups are trying to build new facilities at great (taxpayer) expense, when the infrastructure already exists through current fresh produce wholesalers and distributors. These businesses are still there, years after the trucking industry made mixed loads and LTL transportation available. The model has worked for over one hundred years and continues to provide value to all in the supply chain.