The FreightCaviar Podcast: Insider Tips From Leading Produce Shipper COO

Join us this week as Bill Loupée, Chief Operating Officer at Ben B. Schwartz & Sons, Inc., shares his journey, the most effective broker pitch, and the current produce market trends.

The FreightCaviar Podcast: Insider Tips From Leading Produce Shipper COO

In this week’s episode, we sat down with Bill Loupée, Chief Operating Officer at Ben B. Schwartz & Sons, Inc., a wholesale distributor based in the Detroit Produce Terminal.  Bill takes us through his career, starting from Coyote Logistics, Sonwil Distribution, and now Ben B. Schwartz & Sons, Inc. He shares his thoughts on the most effective broker pitch and unveils the curtain behind the produce market, its trends, and the hottest commodities at the moment.

Journey Into Logistics

We started out talking about how Bill ended up working in the industry. The first five years of his career were spent at Coyote Logistics, starting out as a Carrier Rep, afterwards he joined Sonwill Distribution, based out of Buffalo. Since September 2020, he has been the Chief Operating Officer at Ben B. Schwartz & Sons, Inc.

Learned Experience

If there’s anything the past thirteen years of being in the industry has taught Bill, it's the most effective broker pitches. Bill explained why, in his opinion, Cradle-to-Grave works better than a Split Model.

“It just didn't work here because we need somebody that we can call 24/7 who knows what is going on. Someone has to call the dispatcher, and the dispatcher has to call the driver. And then that information has to cycle all the way back. It works better for us to work with medium-sized produce niche brokers who cradle-to-grave it and who you can call any time of the day.”

Challenges in the Industry

He’s also faced his fair share of challenges when it comes to business with growers and coolers. “We got to get the truck to the shed as fast as possible, and then they're either picking it still, or they're cooling it- they have a reason for why it's not ready. It's usually a legit reason. But we're hustling the truck to get there and then calling a bunch of times, and the guy's sitting there for 10 or 12 hours after we hustled him there. So I totally understand how it's frustrating. I don't know how to fix that issue because a big part of what's driving everything here is consumers’ demand for freshness.”

Bill also unveiled the curtain behind the produce market and the trends we should expect soon. “We have a lot of good relationships with berry growers, and comparing last year to this year, everybody keeps saying the market's on the way up. And based on the three-year cycle of freight rates, I got to imagine that it's going to be soon- at least maybe a 20% uptick by the end of the year is my random guess. But we're not getting a lot of pressure on our side yet."

Hottest Commodities

As for the hottest commodities, Bill says that “generally in the produce world, the more fragile the commodity, the more price volatility there's going to be. And if you do a good job with it, if you know what you're doing, the more money you can make.”

Effective Communication and Pitches

He also shared his thoughts on the best pitch one can make. “When I was a broker, I thought, ‘A call is going to work a lot better than an email; it’s just going to get deleted right away.’ But I think the emails are actually read. Stuff like LinkedIn messages- I think it's a good idea. Whatever communication method you choose to use, it's more about just knowing what the customer is going to value and what you're going to say before you get into that conversation.”

Building a Legacy

Bill explained why companies like Ben B. Schwartz & Sons, Inc. have successfully been in the industry for decades and built a legacy for themselves.

“There are so many companies in produce that are, especially in wholesale, family run and family owned for many, many years. So over time, we've built up those relationships, we figured out who's a good grower, who's not a good grower, how to get the best quality that we can possibly have, and who's going to give that to us at X time of the year.”

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