January 4, 2005, 12:00 AM

Growers` online digital photos help web grocers gauge quality before buying

The web won’t let Peapod.com actually taste oranges before committing to buy them. But it transmits photos from growers that let the online grocer judge size, ripeness, consistency and other measures of quality.

Digital photos have become a regular part of the perishable procurement process at web grocer Peadpod.com. Peapod has been using photos transmitted over the Internet for the past three years to procure better quality produce from growers, vice president of perishables Tony Stallone tells Internet Retailer.

Currently, for example, Stallone says he’s receiving calls from growers in California looking to sell clementines, an increasingly popular small, sweet orange historically sourced overseas. “They used to all come from Spain and Morocco, but now there are California growers who want to take advantage of the market. So if you’re dubious about quality, they are able to send digital photos so you have more confidence in buying,” he says.

Stallone says he also regularly uses digital photos to assess the quality of peaches and nectarines at growers, and that digital photos are particularly important in the remote purchase of most fruit. “With fruit, you have to be very careful that the size and quality is consistent, and that it’s not too ripe,” he says.

Stallone adds that digital photos sent via the web also help volume buyers such as Peapod to gauge fruit size by including in the picture other products for purposes of comparison. Judging fruit quality remotely still is challenging even with digital photos on the web, notes Stallone. “But it’s a great leap from where were five years ago,” he says.

Stallone adds that Peapod`s perishables and other products are principally secured through the purchasing operations of parent company Royal Ahold, where digital photography attached to products is part of a complex, web-enabled procurement platform.


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