Is this a new dawn for French wholesalers? The sector’s annual general meeting, held this year in the beautiful city of Marrakech, definitely broke new ground, firstly, in the sheer numbers of wholesalers who made the trip to Morocco (around 200).
I can hear you saying sarcastically, but of course Marrakech, the sun, the “tagine” and so on. Sure the location gave some wholesalers the opportunity to take a break. But it may surprise some readers to know that the vast majority of delegates were glued to their chairs despite the glorious sunshine outside the conference hall.
Bernard Piton, president of the French wholesalers’ union, was a happy man: he understandably took this as a sign that the agenda he had put together was arousing more than polite interest. In fact, the event was part of a brand new strategy, including stronger presence abroad, as well as at home, and the increase of the wholesaler’s stature as a provider of fruit and vegetables from around the world. Very invigorating indeed.
But, however good the good intentions, there is always a deep and inevitable need surrounding these types of aims: money. As a consultant at the event stated, one of the main problems facing fresh produce wholesale in France is the lack of finances that undermines most of its promotional and PR exercises.
Let’s not linger on the different ways a union has to fill the promotional coffers. They are very similar on either side of the Channel. And probably they anger members in equal measure. What is maybe different here is that the union has decided to work at the industry level in order to create a new route for budgetary spending. For the first time, it would like to be totally dedicated to fresh produce promotion in the catering and hospitality sector.
By the way, the wholesalers in Marrakech also made it clear they want to be more involved in industry-wide promotional campaigns too. “We may consider paying more if promotions are aimed to our clientele,” said one during the debate. It may seem obvious, but it has not always been the way.