Depending on your business’ location, you’ll have a varying number of produce suppliers to choose from. When you have multiple options available, how do you know which supplier is best suited for your business’ needs?
The most trustworthy suppliers will offer a reliable source of fresh fruits and vegetables and only recruit growers with good production practices.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a fruits and vegetable supplier, how to begin picking one, and where to look for one. We also cover how wholesale distributors, growers, and shippers benefit from using Silo.
Factors to consider when looking for a produce supplier
Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for a supplier.
Distance and delivery frequency
Since produce is a time-sensitive commodity, you’ll want to think about how long it will take for the product to be transported and arrive. Some businesses benefit more from nearby and local produce suppliers.
Additionally, depending on the size of your business, consider how often the supplier delivers. If you have less storage space, more frequent deliveries are ideal. Large suppliers don’t typically deliver as frequently as smaller and more local ones—the downside being that local suppliers usually have less variety for you to choose from.
How experienced they are
It can tell you a lot if a supplier has been in the business for many long, successful years. Often, a supplier’s experience determines the quality of fruits and vegetables you’ll be getting, since they’re more likely to source from producers with good growing practices. There’s also a greater chance that they’ll have a wider range of produce.
Experienced suppliers are more likely to provide better service since they’ve dealt with similar customers before. Pay attention to whether they strive to understand the needs of your business, and how willing they are to assist your business in the best possible way.
To assess a supplier’s experience, you can ask them how many years they’ve been operating, and evaluate how well they know the product they’re working with by discussing ideal growing conditions, seasonal variations, and logistical issues they’ve dealt with in the past.
Whether it’s online reviews from previous customers or asking around for opinions, it helps to increase your awareness of the business you’ll be potentially working with. Look for legitimate reviews and testimonials detailing previous experiences with delivery, produce quality, and customer service. Suppliers with a proven history of great service will be easier to trust.
You’ll of course want to avoid suppliers with negative to mixed reception, since it can put your business at risk.
Whether they’re accredited and certified
Fruits and vegetable suppliers should be accredited and certified, meaning they’re officially authorized to work in the produce industry. It also means they're recognized as a company that abides by safety and health regulations, meeting safe handling and sanitation requirements.
If needed, ask to see their accreditations.
Their operations and practices
Before committing to a supplier, it helps to be aware of their usual operations and practices.
For example, pay attention to whether their storage facilities appear clean and organized. You can also ask where they’re getting their produce. Are they working with a contracted farm network? It’s usually a good sign when suppliers have contracted growers, since it means they’ll have a consistent supply for buyers.
How to pick the best supplier
When picking a produce supplier, make a list of potential companies you’re willing to work with, identifying both local and national suppliers that service your area.
Once you’ve established contact, you can request pricing, payment terms, and samples. Every business is unique, so how you weigh these factors can be highly variable depending on your available resources and preferences.
The amount of storage space your business has can also influence the supplier you choose, since it determines how much you can buy in bulk—i.e., the size of the orders you’ll be placing.
Where to look for a produce supplier
Want to get started with a supplier, but don’t know where to look?
Attend fresh produce events
Fresh produce events are international and nationally-held meetings where buyers and retailers can connect with producers and exporters. They’re held every so often, and not only allow you to learn more about the industry, but let you mingle and conduct business with like-minded individuals.
These events are great places to expand your network and discover local and national suppliers.
Regional and local wholesalers
Wholesalers are also another supply source that sells goods at low prices and in large quantities.
A fruits and vegetables wholesale supplier close to your area will provide you with a reliable source of fresh produce that you can check before purchase.
An online search can help you discover local wholesale suppliers. You can also consult Yellow Pages business listings.
Similarly, you can find wholesale websites that offer quality produce at affordable rates. These websites will usually prioritize safe delivery, allowing you to order through email, phone, or their website.
Although it’s a bit more of a risk to order from wholesale websites (since you’re not able to see what exactly you’re purchasing), it should be okay as long as you’re buying from a trustworthy source.
One thing to look for is that the website details exactly what kind of produce they have available. It should also be kept up-to-date, so you know their inventory is current.
Silo benefits distributors, growers, and shippers
Once you’ve selected a produce supplier, you’ll want to maintain a good relationship with them to ensure your business thrives.
Platforms like Silo improve trade partnerships, empowering everyone in the food supply chain through increased efficiency and sustainability. From seeds in the soil to cells in a spreadsheet, Silo helps food businesses grow.
Our platform centralizes communications to eliminate the back and forth with your suppliers and customers. Benefit from streamlined information exchange with vendors, business transaction management, and internal communications.
Our Silo Capital offerings also provide you with easy access to capital when you need it to pay suppliers upfront.