MONTEREY, Calif. -- The produce industry is going more high-tech, with two CD-ROM training programs hitting the market.
One of them, a produce training program from the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., was released this week at the Annual Produce Conference here.
PMA said the new program is aimed at entry-level produce employees. It touches on such subjects as customer service, safety and sanitation, the perishability of produce, basic receiving and storing, maintaining freshness, trimming and merchandising.
The Food Marketing Institute, meanwhile, has also released a new computer-based training program for produce identification. The program, "Produce 100," debuted at FMI's annual convention and exposition in Chicago last month.
"The response from our members has really been great," said Edie Clark, director of media relations for FMI, Washington. According to FMI, the program is designed to teach front-end employees how to identify the top 100 produce items using a computer CD-ROM training vehicle. The program provides tips on how to recognize the produce, while also testing front-end employees and tracking their retention and comprehension.
The trade group said this is its first interactive program for training store-level employees. FMI developed Produce 100 in conjunction with Strategic Systems Associates, Chicago.
"The program was really designed for smaller retailers," said Gary Johnson, president of Strategic Systems. While any size chain can use the system, it was designed to be affordable for independents, he said. One copy of the program retails for $299, and additional copies are $200, Johnson said. Unlike the PMA CD-ROM training program, Produce 100 is geared toward front-end checkers, Johnson said.
When FMI approached Strategic Systems to develop Produce 100 late last year, the two groups decided to offer a selective program. "We had to set parameters, so we developed an identification program with the 100 top produce items," he said.
With two programs from two different sources available virtually at the same time, the training software could be outstripping the available hardware for retailers, according to one store technology expert.
"Certainly, we can find chains and independents who have computers," Jerry Morton, principal with Store Systems Consulting in Lawrence, Kan., told SN. "But in general, most of the industry is not equipped for this type of training."