According to Tim Cunniff, executive vice president of sales for Little Leaf Farms, the Massachusetts-based operation is still in its growth phase and sales are up this year over last. But that doesn’t mean doing business amid the ongoing pandemic has been easy.
“I would not want to be introducing a new item during this time frame,” he says. “The retailers have a lot on their plate with managing day-to-day operations. We’re very fortunate that we are on the shelf so we can keep moving.”
Produce Grower: What does doing business look like in the current climate?
Tim Cunniff: What was very erratic to begin with is starting to get a little more rhythm to it in the marketplace. It’s been rough. We’re in Massachusetts, so we’re a little bit ahead in the trend [as far as coronavirus cases go] than most other states. But when we were in the midst of it all, it was chaotic, and everyone was dealing with their own separate issues. It was, and is, about adjusting to the best of your ability. We’re also definitely lucky that we have really good customers.PG: What is it like interacting with customers right now?
TC: They were dealing with their own internal issues. It was constant news updates with what was going on with the stores, what the new protocols were, what are the new rules in the state, what’s going on with your employees? And we sell within a bunch of different states — Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut. We were getting updates there as much as we could so we could forecast. In quote-un-quote normal time frames, our buyers are very good about how much they need and anticipating surges. Now, it is flattened out because there was no weekend surge — it just went away for a while.
PG: From your point of view, has anything, gone back to at least resembling pre-coronavirus times?
TC: It’s definitely not as crazy as it was back in March and April. It’s getting to be a little more of a rhythm to it. There are little blips and we do have things in weird spots. We have a food service business, we do sell to universities and we don’t know what’s going on with them. Those are the things that are still question marks. And we have a seasonal business out on the cape and the southeast coast of Maine, and we are trying to figure that out, trying to figure out if people are going on vacation or not. One of the things we used to be big on, too, for promotion was doing events and sponsorships. None of that stuff is happening. So how we talk to consumers — we have to rethink that because we used to do local bike rides and 5K runs, and hand out coupons and put tents out in front of stores to do sampling. That’s nonexistent.