29 Oct 2020

Amid multi-billion-dollar shift in consumer food spend and 300% jump in online grocery sales, food retailers seek supply chain agility and scale for a holiday season marked by increased demand and shorter timelines

Eden Prairie, Minnesota (Oct. 29, 2020) — Global logistics company C.H. Robinson is bringing supply chain expertise and technology to the aid of grocery retailers facing unprecedented demand and consumer change during one of the busiest food shopping seasons of the year. With an analysis of USDA data projecting a $250 billion annual shift to food at home spend, and a FMI report showing a 300% jump in online grocery sales, food retailers are contending with new challenges during an already busy holiday season.

As a key service provider to 50 of the top 75 grocery retailers in the United States and 90% of the top ten, C.H. Robinson’s specialized food retail logistics offerings are leveraging technology built by and for supply chain experts, a global suite of services and new research on grocery shopping trends to help retailers adapt and execute against the changing needs of its customers and the market.

“This will be one of the most challenging and unpredictable shopping seasons our generation has seen, which means food retailers need supply chain agility to help them react in real-time to changes in demand,” said Michael Castagnetto, president, Robinson Fresh, the fresh produce division of C.H. Robinson. “To meet shoppers’ expectations, inventory now needs to be replenishable in a matter of hours—not days or weeks—which is why we are delivering insights and solutions that provide greater flexibility and visibility, from product origination to store shelf or digital cart.”

Through its single, global, multimodal platform Navisphere®, C.H. Robinson has been helping grocery retailers accommodate demand surges, tight transportation markets and ongoing uncertainty since the outbreak of the pandemic. Now, it is applying that same agility heading into the holidays, leveraging Navisphere to give retailers connectivity to inventory management services enabling quick order adjustments, access to industry leading retail consolidation services and integration with multimodal transportation solutions with direct-to-store delivery. With 10 million square feet under refrigeration, 7.5 million square feet of dry warehouse, six managed service centers and 175 different distribution centers across North America, the combination of localized warehousing at scale connected to multimodal transportation options allows for a streamlined process down to the SKU level and gives retailers unmatched flexibility to meet consumers’ ever-changing demands. Additionally, if store shelves do sell out, C.H. Robinson supports retailers by providing fresh product as needed to ensure that consumers can have that perfect pumpkin pie for their holiday.

“Retailers rely on us to help get the products shoppers want in stock, especially now,” added Castagnetto. “We are honored to work with leading retailers to supply the product they need, as well as provide the expertise and scale to help them quickly adapt during an unpredictable holiday season where food is at the heart of so many traditions.”

This next-level agility is not a short-term need. A customer research study on changing grocery shopper habits, led by C.H. Robinson’s Robinson Fresh team, revealed some of the biggest change-drivers in retail are here to stay, including that 70% of shoppers plan to continue these changed habits of online shopping beyond the pandemic. Additionally, it showed 48% of shoppers prefer online shopping with delivery above curbside or in-store pickup, presenting a greater need to further integrate online and brick and mortar supply chains.

The perishable foods sector of food retail has seen the largest shift to online purchasing, with the study revealing 54% of consumers are buying fresh produce online for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Heading into the holidays, the sudden increase in online orders is further complicated by the CDC’s recommendation for smaller Thanksgiving gatherings, which will make inventory needs even harder to predict. This is on top of historically tight transportation and warehouse capacity, making available space for goods hard to come by, especially on short notice.

“Speed to shelf, retail acceptance rate and having inventory in the right locations are all heightened challenges this year, especially as capacity is tight even several weeks ahead of the holidays. And, perishable products like pumpkins, cranberries and proteins such as poultry and other meat are always more difficult because you are working against the clock to ensure the product gets to the consumer while it’s still fresh,” said Mark Petersen, vice president, North American Surface Transportation, C.H. Robinson. “We are laser focused on solving customers’ toughest supply chain challenges and delivering smarter solutions that help our shippers increase efficiency, reliability and gain a competitive edge, even in the most unpredictable of times.”

For more insights from the customer research study on changing grocery shopper habits, visit the Robinson Fresh blog. To learn more about C.H. Robinson’s retail offerings, visit www.chrobinson.com/retail-logistics.


About C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson solves logistics problems for companies across the globe and across industries, from the simple to the most complex. With nearly $20 billion in freight under management and 18 million shipments annually, we are one of the world’s largest logistics platforms. Our global suite of services accelerates trade to seamlessly deliver the products and goods that drive the world’s economy. With the combination of our multimodal transportation management system and expertise, we use our information advantage to deliver smarter solutions for our more than 119,000 customers and 78,000 contract carriers. Our technology is built by and for supply chain experts to bring faster, more meaningful improvements to our customers’ businesses. As a responsible global citizen, we are also proud to contribute millions of dollars to support causes that matter to our company, our Foundation and our employees. For more information, visit us at www.chrobinson.com (Nasdaq: CHRW).

About Robinson Fresh®

Robinson Fresh® specializes in sourcing and transporting fresh produce for consumers around the world. As one of the largest produce providers in the world and a division of world’s largest logistics platform,C.H. Robinson, Robinson Fresh offers the highest quality products, services and solutions. Customers take advantage of year-round and global product supply, cold chain expertise, world-class account management and impactful category insights. This expertise fuels Robinson Fresh’s ability to create and execute innovative supply chain solutions for customers, from seed to shelf. For more information, visit  www.robinsonfresh.com.