Improvisation, pacesetting, and innovation—these are characteristics of cutting-edge paradigms driving the success of forward-thinking companies across our industry. Some vanguards see opportunities where challenges prevail and find the fundamental materials for greatness where others dare not look. This is a space I reserve for companies like Sprouts Farmers Market. The specialty grocer’s bold leadership grasps these ideals with such passion that many in our industry look to them as examples of a thriving vision with the ability to impact the way consumers shop on a national stage.
Sitting at the helm of Sprouts’ vision for fresh fruits and vegetables is Robby Cruz, Vice President of Produce Sourcing and Procurement, whose sharp and acute eye for detail and innovation is helping to refine and evolve a vision for greatness across the forefront of fresh.
With vendor partnerships and a goal to open more supplier dialogue at the top of his list of priorities, Robby joins me to share the details of the road he is helping to pave for Sprouts and what continues to get the produce veteran up in the morning.
Robby Cruz: I love the surprise-and-delight aspect of our business for the customers. We are often working with our grower partners to move large volumes of product at a great value for our customers. Our mantra at Sprouts is to be “the destination for the freshest, best-tasting produce at a great value.”
We have “farmers market” in our name, and this is not something we take lightly. It shows when you visit our stores—from the front of the store’s outdoor displays to entering through the front door, consumers see fresh produce all throughout their shopping trip.
RC: I am a big believer in vendor partnerships. The key to a great partnership is transparency in ensuring that each side’s vision aligns with their goals. Not everyone is going to have the same vision, and that is okay because every retailer doesn’t have the same go-to-market strategy.
Essentially, my vision is to set goals for both parties and then ensure we work together to meet and exceed them.
RC: I love how fast-paced the industry is, day to day. That truly aligns with who I am.
Both as a team and in conversations with our grower partners, we often talk about our intention to look even further downfield—we not only need to look at the now but how we plan together for the future. We need to lead the industry in our vision through merchandising, sourcing, and procurement. Our goal and strategy is to find the next variety of fruit or vegetable that gives our customers that amazing at-home eating experience which, in turn, gives us that repeat purchase.
“We are often working with our grower partners to move large volumes of product at a great value for our customers.”
Robby Cruz, Vice President of Produce Sourcing and Procurement, Sprouts Farmers Market
RC: Originally, coming out of high school, I wanted to be a landscape architect, but figured out pretty quickly that I loved the satisfaction of an amazingly merchandised department. There is something about increasing sales through enticing your customers with fresh, great quality, and perfectly merchandised products that rewards the team.
I worked at three pretty large companies, climbing my way through the ranks, touching on all sides of the business from stores, sales, merchandising, procurement, and sourcing. I had the opportunity to work for a great company like Sprouts that is focused on driving traffic with produce, and so joining the team seemed like a natural fit. The work here has happened seamlessly.
RC: It sounds cliché, but I absolutely love my job and the industry we work in. I have been in the industry for 27 years, and I am never satisfied with where we are. The industry transforms and moves at a million miles an hour, and we need to continue to immerse ourselves in learning more every day.
RC: What keeps me up at night right now is this new way of going to business over phone calls and emails due to the pandemic. I feel we lose a little of that TEAM atmosphere and comradery by not being in the same office or in the fields and talking strategy with vendor partners in person.
RC: Have a vision of who you want to be and make sure you have the right partners that share your vision.
As Sprouts Farmers Market continues to set itself apart from the retail pack, the dynamic makeup of its people, the diverse range of its vision, and the strength of its fresh strategy execution will continue to plant the seeds for growth and excellence. Robby Cruz knows this better than anyone—he gets up in the morning with a passion because of it.