Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club notified suppliers May 29 that the retail giants expect shipments to comply with Produce Traceability Initiative guidelines by Nov. 1, and produce received at distribution centers without PTI-compliant case labels will be rejected starting Jan. 1.
While that ominous message likely sent many individual companies scrambling for a solution, Wisconsin potato growers are considering a unified response.
“We’re trying to set up a standard so everyone can use same technology and formatting,” said Rick Kantner, director of sales and marketing for Alsum Farms & Produce Inc., Friesland, Wis. “That’s what we’re working on.”
Kantner said he was confident Wisconsin shippers will be ready by the Nov. 1 target date.
Dana Rady, director of promotions, communication and consumer education for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, Antigo, said members met with representatives from RedLine Solutions, Santa Clara, Calif., and FoodLogiQ, Durham, N.C., in late July, and growers were expected to meet again by the end of the month to discuss moving forward with one of the suppliers.
“It would be easier and more cost effective for shippers and growers to move forward with one company,” Rady said. “A lot of states have moved forward with PTI, but growers have done it on an individual basis. I haven’t heard of an entire state moving forward as a team.”
Rady said July 19 that the Wisconsin association was gathering additional information to help its prospective business partners refine their pitches. She said the association planned to make a decision by mid-August.
“Most vendors haven’t had to come up with a quote for an entire state before,” she said.
The move wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2011, Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., selected FoodLogiQ and Salinas, Calif.-based TrueTrac LLC as preferred technology solution vendors for food safety, traceability and sustainability applications. The two companies then offered price discounts to Western Growers members.
The Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association represents about 300 growers and affiliated companies. Rady said it was likely that not all members will participate but she expected that the majority of the fresh potato suppliers will.
She said Wal-Mart’s mandate is likely just the beginning.
“Wal-Mart is the driving force,” she said, “but others are going to follow.”
Mike Carter, chief executive officer for Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushmans’ Inc., said Wisconsin suppliers are ready to move forward in a short time frame.
“If everyone works together it will reduce overlap in the investment in printers, computer systems and everything else,” he said. “It makes sense to develop a system that works for everyone.”