Fresh Plaza: John Anderson and Bruce Taylor look back on 2020 and discuss opportunities for 2021
This week’s PMA virtual town hall marked the 37th and last installation of 2020 and featured John Anderson, Chairman and CEO of the Oppenheimer Group and Bruce Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms who, led by PMA CEO Cathy Burns, looked back on 2020 and discussed what expectations they have for both the short-term and long-term future.
Looking back on 2020
There has been much discussion on how 2020 has been for a variety of companies and sectors within the produce industry. For Anderson and Taylor, the overall takeaways of this year were the importance of diversification, adaptation, and resilience. “Everything happened so quickly,” says Anderson. “The rapid changes in sales volumes – with foodservice going down and retail going up – highlighted our industry’s impressive ability to adapt.” Taylor agrees, adding: “It was very heartwarming to see how resilient our team and the entire industry really are. We have 16 operating companies and each one responded to different challenges with the same goal of taking care of our people and our customers.”
The events of 2020 also highlighted some weaknesses in the supply chain and industry. “One thing that was a real eyeopener to me was seeing the level of risk we, as producers, bear,” says Taylor. “When foodservice shut down, we had $70 million worth of vegetables in the ground with no home. It really highlighted the importance of diversification and balance in the business,” he shares. For Anderson, the importance of automation became clear during the pandemic. “Labor issues were highlighted everywhere. We operate all over the world, from South America to Asia and the labor issue was really ubiquitous across all of these regions. Labor issues will continue to be a challenge and automation will be the way to mitigate it,” he says…