Q&A with New Director of Meat and Perishable Sales Nicki Crespo

May 6, 2024
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Insights from Corporate Buyer Turned Meat Broker Nicki Crespo

In January, we expanded our leadership team by hiring Nicki Crespo as Director of Fresh Meat and Private Label. Nicki brings a very unique and valuable perspective to her new role as a meat broker, because she spent nearly 24 years at Publix Super Markets. She most recently served as the food retailer’s category manager over the dairy, processed and frozen meat categories.

As a former meat buyer turned meat broker, Nicki shares insights in this post about the dynamics between food manufacturers, brokers and retailers. She also sheds light on how her retail experience brings a distinct advantage to Bay Food clients.

Q: When you were at Publix, when did you first start interacting with retail food brokerage firms? And what was your opinion of them, in general?

My first interactions with brokers and vendors started when I was a store-level associate at Publix. We saw various vendors who came in to check their products and ask us for customer feedback.

I recall Bay Food Brokerage very well because I had the same retail rep the entire time I was in retail (12 years). Her name was Brenda. She had my territory, and I saw her at each store I was transferred to over the years. She was a familiar face, and I loved getting to know her and trusted that she was there to help us.

Q: Was it unusual for you see the same retail rep with a particular brokerage firm over such a long time-period? 

It was unusual. A lot of other brokers had a lot of turnover with the people calling on us, and Bay Food didn’t. That consistency and institutional knowledge was helpful.

Q: When you were a meat buyer for Publix, in what ways did you find brokerages helpful? What about unhelpful, a hindrance or ineffective?

As a buyer, I found brokers were helpful to provide market research during reviews, entering the cost deals and ad plans, helping to manage truckload builds (sometimes with fresh meat), and interacting with suppliers on Publix’s behalf.

Brokers become a hinderance when they get sloppy. Errors in entering information, lack of follow-through or follow-up when there is a question, and not maintaining the item costs accurately cause extra work on a buyer to correct these things.

An ineffective broker is evident when a buyer can’t get a question answered and has to contact the supplier directly for an improved response.

Q: Now you’re at Bay Food and seeing things from this side of the business. What are some of the biggest surprises or learning lessons you’ve had? 

The biggest surprise I’ve had so far is seeing how much the brokerage buffers the retailer’s category team. This includes everything from answering supplier questions to managing day-to-day activity follow-up.

Another surprise has been how manufacturers react to the information that is shared or made available to them. We often hear manufacturers ask, “Why would the retailer do this or that?” I feel for the companies, because it’s hard to only get some of the information and then try to fill in the blanks or the details.

Q: In what ways do you think your having been a category manager at Publix will serve Bay Food’s clients well?

As a category manager at Publix, I did a lot of work in project management, item development, space merchandising and market trend research. I think all of these skills transition well to my new role at Bay Food Brokerage.

Also, having an understanding of how a big retailer needs great partners for continued success and growth is important. I aim to help the companies we represent be of better service to our retail partners through knowing how to present relevant and correct information.

Q: Can you tell us more about your plans as they relate to private label development?

Yes. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for manufacturers when it comes to private label.

One of the big misconceptions suppliers have is that retailers don’t want their suggestions. And that’s simply not true. Sometimes, the retailer doesn’t know what they want until you present it to them.

Being able to do this at Bay Food is exciting. I’m really looking forward to working with our manufacturer clients to develop new and innovative private label items.

Q: What are you most excited about as you begin this journey as a meat broker, after so many years on the other side?

I represented one great company, to the best of my ability, for the last 24 years. I am most excited to represent many great companies moving forward.

I’m thrilled for the relationships that come with my new role. Getting to know the companies Bay Food Brokerage represents has been a tremendous pleasure so far.

Looking for a meat broker in the Southeast with deep and nuanced experience? Contact us today to learn how we can help you.