Organic Produce to Your Door
By Jenn LaVardera, MS RD
Though the phrase “farm-to-table” tends to conjure images of quaint shops and roadside stands, there are more ways than ever to get fresh organic produce from field to fork.
In surprising events last week, Amazon announced a near $14 million bid to purchase Whole Foods, a move that could potentially disrupt the distribution, inventory system, logistics and total experience of the grocery business model. While online grocery shopping has proven successful, many companies struggle with sales of fruits and vegetables via the web. If this deal goes through, it could mean a major shakeup for the avenues in which consumers purchase fresh organic produce—not just via Amazon/Whole Foods, but through retailers that will feel challenged to compete.
Amazon/Whole Foods isn’t the only challenge traditional retailers now face. Demand for retailer grocery delivery has been partially fueled by the surging popularity of meal delivery services. Three weeks ago, Manhattan-based Blue Apron, which offers ready-to-cook meal kits delivered to your door, announced its IPO. In the last two years, Blue Apron’s sales have shot up tenfold, reaching $795.4 million in 2016.
There are over 100 companies that offer meal or meal kit delivery nationwide. Rivals include HelloFresh, Plated, Green Chef, Chef’d, Peach Dish, Sun Basket and Purple Carrot. These services allow consumers to put homemade dinners on the table, typically in 30 minutes or less. According to Technomic, meal delivery is projected to reach $10 billion globally by 2020. Nielsen reports one in four adults in the U.S. has purchased a meal kit and 70% are return customers.
|Green Chef, based in Denver, was the first USDA-certified organic meal kit delivery service, certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Founded in 2014 by Michael Joseph, who feels a personal “value for transparency around the food we grow and eat,” Green Chef ships nationwide and reached about $100 million in 2016 revenue. According to the company, about 95% of ingredients are organic and all ingredients can be traced to the supplier.|
Outpacing Green Chef is San Francisco-based SunBasket, also founded in 2014 and certified organic by CCOF. The company has raised over $55 million in total equity funding and saw a revenue jump of 1300% in 2016. With availability in 98% of the continental U.S., SunBasket is the biggest direct-to-consumer organic food provider in the country according to CEO Adam Zbar.
|Even companies not certified organic are seeing the value in transparency with their sourcing and including organic ingredients in their recipes. Blue Apron states “many of our ingredients are USDA certified organic,” and they’ve taken a firm stance against including GMO-containing ingredients. Chef’d notes they “buy from organic farmers where possible” and that all herbs they use are organic. They label which ingredients are organic on the package.|
At HelloFresh, including organic ingredients is not a top priority. The company instead concentrates on helping to provide a positive cooking experience for their customers and helping customers add more fruits and vegetables into their diet—both conventional and organic.
|Purple Carrot, which offers vegan meals with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, does not include information on organics on their website, though Consumer Reports states “the company claims all of its ingredients are non-GMO and often organic.”|
A commitment to customer service, growing, and strong grower relationships has been the hallmark of one of the nations’ leading organic growing/shipping/distributing operations. For over 20 years, Los Angeles-based 4Earth Farms has utilized smaller mixer business as a springboard to significant growth in its wholesale organic business and propelled the company into major growing organic deals across in the United States and Mexico.Read More
California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, CA, is one of the largest berry grower-shippers in the Watsonville area, the strawberry capital of the world. The company has a robust berry operation, both company owned and as a representative for outside growers. Cindy Jewell is the firm’s vice president of marketing.Read More
Partnering with marketing research firm Nielsen, OPN analysis of organic fresh produce sales indicates organic berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.), and apples accounted for nearly two-thirds of all organic fruit sales ($73 million) during April. Total organic fruit sales ----commodity and value added---- for April stood at $120 million, with organic fresh vegetable sales reaching $208 million. Other organic produce items including herbs, juices, dressings and snack mixes totaled $54 million in sales for the month.Read More
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