Online ordering a first for wholesale produce industry

T&G Global has launched what it believes is the world’s first online ordering platform for the wholesale produce sector. 

FirstPick.co.nz was developed in-house by T&G (formerly Turners and Growers) and enables wholesale customers to order fresh fruit and vegetables in real-time from a desktop, tablet or smartphone 24/7.

T&G is targeting 40% usage of the web-app over the next 18 months after a successful trial in Auckland, Hamilton and Taupo.
While online ordering is commonplace in retail environments, orders in the wholesale produce sector are largely still placed by phone followed by email and fax. Roughly 30% of T&G’s customers still visit its 12 market floors each day. While this option will continue, T&G’s Executive General Manager, New Zealand, Andrew Keaney, expects a tipping point will occur within two-years.
“Our customers have been coming onto our market floors for over 100 years to inspect produce, see what’s in season and talk with our produce specialists but the changing business landscape means people have less time and we need to look at ways to leverage technology to allow our customers to spend more time in their stores servicing their customers, rather than battle traffic or having to physically be at the markets at 2.00am in order to secure stock. FirstPick future proofs our market business and is an easy, alternative ordering system offering customers real-time visibility of what’s available on our floors, at what price and from anywhere.”

FreshChoice Half Moon Bay in Auckland was among those involved in the trial of FirstPick. Produce Manager, Matt Burity says the platform has revolutionised the way he orders fruit and vegetables for the supermarket. 
“‘I used to place my orders with T&G by email but FirstPick is a much better tool. I walk through the chiller each morning and note down what I need to order. Then I go on my laptop, get on FirstPick and place my order. I start at 6am and generally my truck leaves from T&G around 7am. That gives me an hour window. If something is missing I can see it on my screen and call the guys immediately. Previously the truck had often already left so it was too late to order more produce from T&G. With FirstPick I can send a message right away and get a quicker response and a more accurate order.” 

Enhanced order visibility is made possible by a colour-coded dashboard which alerts customers if their order is pending (blue), allocated (green), modified (yellow) or unavailable (red). The order status is highlighted as un-submitted (yellow), processing (blue) or complete (green). Status updates are critical to those who rely heavily on the availability of key produce including restaurants and supermarkets.

Also involved in the pilot was Vege Patch owner Kevin Coxhead who has been servicing Taupo’s hospitality and rest home businesses for 26 years. “Before the trial I was a one-finger orderer by email and I often missed something I needed. Now I don’t miss anything which is crucial for chefs and their menus.”
Once a customer places an order it’s sent to their nearest T&G market floor for fulfilment by a product specialist such as Graham Cull who has worked on the Mt Wellington market floor for 15 years. He says a key benefit of FirstPick is better communication with customers. 
“I can see the whole day in front of me when I log in. FirstPick gives me much greater visibility and I can communicate directly with the customer instantly if anything is short like mushrooms for example. We can have a conversation through the site and you get to know the customer really well which means they trust me to select the best produce for them.”

The web-app is fully secure and customer information is only visible to the user and T&G. 
It’s accessible to New Zealand customers only but T&G has already had interest from overseas markets. 

Photo: T&G Global product specialist Graham Cull and head of digital product, Jeremy Miller.