Discover a Day in the Life of a Fruit and Vegetable Buyer
In this blog, we explore a day in the life of a fruit and vegetable buyer who is also a shop manager for a cooperative supermarket based in Belgium.
Our EIT Food Day in the Life series is an educational resource aimed at young people and professionals who are interested in the agrifood job market. We profile a wide range of careers in the agrifood sector, interviewing professionals to find out what their job is like, why it is important, and how you could take up the profession.
You will learn:
- What a typical day is like as a fruit and vegetable buyer
- The main responsibilities of a fruit and vegetable buyer
- Why this industry matters to our wider food system
- How you can take up this career path
Meet Manon Armenio, a fruit and vegetable buyer and a shop manager at the Bees Cooperative supermarket in Brussels, Belgium.
Manon tells us about her job as a fruit and vegetable buyer and how you can train to become one too.
What does a typical day as a Fruit and Vegetable Buyer look like?
When visiting traditional supermarkets, we do not often know about the people working there or the farmers behind the produce, however in Manon’s store, staff know about the produce and the farmers and so do customers as “customers are happy to know more about them.” As a fruit and vegetable buyer, it is Manon’s responsibility to have good relationships with local farmers and growers who produce fruit and vegetables to be sold in the supermarket. It is important for Manon to support local farmers and provide consumers with local produce. To ensure she has enough stock to supply her customers with their fruit and veg, Manon manages the accounts of her suppliers to understand the level of produce.
To start a shift, Manon conducts a meeting as there are over 1,500 people co-operators at the store, but only 10 people employed. She asks staff where they would like to work, such as on the cash registers or refilling the shop and can then designate who goes where. It is important that this meeting happens so staff understand their role and have a plan of action for the day. It’s an organised and nice way to give people the choice of what tasks they would be most happy to do, as well as giving them the option to rotate tasks throughout the day to keep staff motivated.
“On a day-to-day basis, I’m looking at the shelves and the layout. I’m looking if the vegetables are fresh or not and if they are nice for the customer. I’m looking at my cold room and look at the stock to see if I need to do some orders, as well as looking at the invoices.”
Being a store manager and fruit and vegetable buyer of a cooperative participative supermarket holds a lot of responsibility and acquires good organisation and communication skills. A cooperative supermarket is very different to a normal, traditional supermarket as instead of employing staff, the cooperative is made up of 1500 co-operators who work at the shop. The co-operators commit to working 3 hours per month which allows them and their relatives access to the produce sold in store.
How can I get involved in this area? What are the pathways into this role?
“I joined the cooperative 5 years ago. You need to have some experiences or studies. I studied in Agroecology, so it’s close to the fruit and vegetable's part. You need to have contact with people and sellers to have affinities with the cooperative way and the participative way of the supermarket.”
To have a career in this area, you can take the traditional route of studying a relevant degree at university or college. However, you can also take online courses that will give you the knowledge and confidence to start your path to being a fruit and vegetable buyer.
It is important to have the correct set of skills that are needed to be a buyer. Some of these skills are negotiation skills, understanding of how a business works and perhaps economics as well, which you can learn through taking relevant degrees and building your skills ready to develop them further when gaining work experience, which you could do by visiting supermarkets and getting some on-the-job training, where you can also have the opportunity to ask your own questions and gain extra knowledge.
What are the challenges working as a Fruit and Vegetable Buyer?
Working as a fruit and vegetable buyer holds a lot of responsibility to ensure that the produce is fresh and high quality for customers as it is important that suppliers and customers are both kept happy. Buyers need to have good relationships with the people producing the food as well as the customers who buy from them to ultimately keep the store successful.
“The challenge of my job is facing the changing of season, we have to have fresh fruits and vegetables from different seasons.” With the seasonal changes, different produce is stocked as to what is being produced in the local area, unlike traditional supermarkets who have their produced shipping it from across the world.
“To choose our products, we try to have mostly local products and mostly organic fruit and vegetables. We have to buy some products from the wholesaler, some we don’t have in Belgium, especially the fruits.” Availability can be an issue for Manon due to issues out of her control I.e., if she is relying on local produce but harvests fail. However, it is her job to find a solution to the issue which would be to adapt what she sells and find alternatives to ensure shelves are not empty and customers can still have options to purchase from.
What is the best part of your job?
Customer engagement is important to Manon as a fruit and vegetable buyer.
“The best part of my job is being close to the customer. I think it’s a big part of the supermarket and especially with cooperative supermarkets that we have. It’s really nice to see when people are happy from produce.”
Customers feedback to Manon with their thoughts about the produce and whether it tastes good. Manon has a special contact with the farmers and wholesaler where she can report back customers opinions to ensure that likable produce continues to come into store.
Working closely with farmers and wholesalers benefits the wider food system as different sectors work collectively to ensure good produce is sold and consumers are happy. It can help us to become more sustainable and can educate consumers more about where their food comes from, creating that connection between an individual and their food.
Manon describes her job in three words: adaptability, busy and communication.
About EIT Food’s Day in The Life series
EIT Food’s Day in the Life Series is a video series that explores the variety of careers that our agrifood system has to offer. The aim of the series is to raise awareness of the range of high-skilled and highly rewarding jobs that the food and farming sector has to offer and inspire younger generations to consider one of these careers for themselves.