Land And Ladle
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Land And Ladle

Top 10 Reasons Why the Produce Industry Sucks

#9: Apathy Everywhere

Murphy’s law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” There’s little doubt that Murphy was a produce trader.

Those of you who don’t live, eat, and breathe produce might be surprised that this level of cynicism exists. Not only does it exist, it’s actually manifested to a degree that it’s expected, almost encouraged.

Confused? You should be, while true, it makes no sense.

Rather than striking a deal and assuming everything is AOK, we produce folks do the exact opposite. As growers, wholesalers, retailers, processors, brokers and carriers we’re are all anticipating and bracing for a letdown. Sometimes these failures never come but more often they do. Over the years I’ve heard it all. Harvest estimates, border crossings, weather, road conditions, the list goes on and on.

You place your orders in advance, pay a fair price for your product. You’re diligent with planning, paperwork and follow up. You’ve done all you can do. You hope that everything will work out.

The problem is, business rarely unfolds as planned and nobody is immune. Even the biggest retailers get curve balls thrown their way on a weekly basis.

I’ll concede, there are many challenges in our supply chain that contribute to failures in the supply chain. But, lets be honest, sometimes these excuses are merely cover because a more attractive scenario becomes available to the vendor in question.

Is it conceivable many of the common problems we face are rooted within the industry players themselves?

I’m going to pose this question and many others throughout this blog series.

One word continues to climb to the top of the pile, as the greatest challenge in produce commerce.


Through my years of experience — I’ve learned some valuable lessons, and it starts with this:

Sometimes we have to shift our expectations of what doing the right thing really gets us.

Hard to believe I’m saying this and certainly guilty of cynicism myself. Why might you ask? In no other industry (that I’m aware of) are you so often rewarded with a sh*t sandwich, by doing the right thing.

Am I proposing or suggesting that we as produce professionals should act with prejudice or disregard to our colleagues? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that until fundamental changes are made within our industry and people operating in all corners of the value chain begin to embrace change, expect similar results.

For example. Over the years we’ve struggled with carrier claims. In short, we felt our trucks were getting a raw deal. Whether it be from product that was loaded warm, damaged cases at loading point, product signed for but not shipped or claims from equipment failures/breakdowns, we aimed to improve the experience of our carrier partners. So we set out to make positive change.

How might you ask? We did what we do every time we repeatedly experience industry problems that can’t be resolved with improved systems or communication.

We built technology to solve the problem.

After careful planning and the creation of a model that pays drivers to take precautionary measures thereby eliminating the claims we’ve been experiencing for years, you’ll never guess what happened.

Not much. We thought our 3PL providers would jump at the chance to limit the liability of the carriers they represented.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case. In fact, we’ve experienced much resistance from our current logistics providers, despite the fact that it takes little of their time and costs them nothing.

It seems we’re more concerned about their carriers’ bottomline than they are.

Perhaps you’re thinking the value proposition isn’t strong enough to get drivers to participate? Good thought. I feared the same after adoptions were slow. However, this has been proven false. The drivers that actually try it, do it. And they keep doing it. We’re seeing a small group of drivers that have become very loyal to our application and very few of them try it once and never do it again. We seldom have questions about functionality and zero complaints about its complexity. These facts are now clear to me.

In many cases, produce commerce professionals are afraid of change, lack trust in their business relationships and fearful of their own ability to stay relevant.

While I was initially discouraged by a lack of participation of our current 3PL providers, this learning curve has compelled our team to dig deeper and find partners who do wish to streamline their supply chain. Ultimately this process has and will continue to make us a stronger organization.

I’m not saying that everything within our industry is doom and gloom. If I felt it was a lost cause I wouldn’t take the time to write these blogs or invest in products and systems to promote positive change.

What I am saying is…….. Why?

Why don’t we want to work together to eliminate pain points in our value chain?

Why are so many of us resistant to change, other than our own fears?

Why not extend the trust necessary to shrink the apathy and cynicism that often occupy our days?

Wish I had these answers.

Perhaps you do?

When in Doubt, Add Value.


A 20+ year entrepreneur with a no-B.S.-in-business attitude, Shaun Black has powered over $30 million in annual revenue with his trading and importing company, Diamond Produce, founded numerous successful local businesses, and remained on the cutting edge of national start-up industries for over a decade.

His experience as a grocer taught him the importance of exceeding expectations, one relationship at a time. Through systems, automation, and personal touch, his businesses deliver consistent retail-minded service. His “add value” approach to vendor and teams alike has paid dividends and been the driving force behind growth and profit.

When in Doubt, Add Value, and follow @mrshaunblack on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more.




Land & Ladle gathers and highlights great stories on sustainable, innovative and equitable food. If you have a story about food, farming, gardening, food policy, food justice, food waste, the future of food, food tech or related topics we'd love to know!

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Shaun Black

Shaun Black

Entrepreneur. Restaurateur. Philanthropist.

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