2020 has certainly proven to be a year of new experiences. It really made us think about new contactless ways to get the things we needed. Online shopping increased and consumers started to use contactless pick-up and delivery for their everyday items. Many started supporting struggling local farms and businesses to get some of their groceries.
One concept that is starting to gain more momentum is Farm-to-table. This is where the food from the farmers/producers is sold directly to the end consumers. The food is fresh off the farm or from the producer, not stored in a warehouse and ends up straight on your home or restaurant table – so you know where all your food comes from. Food tends to be more nutritious, organic and fresher. The process is better for the farmers/producers as there is less waste and no middle-man. There is less of a carbon footprint and there is often more selection of in-season products. It opens the doors to many more unique boutique items to be available for purchase easily. You know the kinds of stuff we all go to farmers markets and festivals to shop for.
The challenge of farm to table in our vast agricultural rich area is getting the products from each of these amazing farms to you, the end user, as not everyone has the time to drive around all day to get their eggs in Abbotsford, their honey in Langley, their squash in Port Moody… etc you see where I am going here. This is where DirectFood.store (DFS) comes in. They are the product of a local company, Wisebox that has a 20 year history along with expertise and software capabilities to handle the ecommerce and logistical side of getting a farm-to-table concept off the ground. They also enable map-based traceability, the ability to understand exactly where your food comes from, via their partnership with Agrilyze.
Based out of Abbotsford, BC, DirectFood.store is the first of its kind in British Columbia. The concept is quite simple, farmers list their products on the DirectFood.store website and determine their own selling prices. Customers go on the website and browse through the list of products available for the day and order accordingly. The items are delivered to you next day (in most cases). Delivery is available from Vancouver to Chilliwack and free for orders of $45 and up. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Now you can easily get those hard to find wild mushrooms from Burnaby delivered to your home in Chilliwack or those delicious Abbotsford blueberries delivered to you in Vancouver by tomorrow and you didn’t have to leave the house.
DirectFood.store launched just a few months ago, on July 8th 2020. Their inventory is seasonal and based on farmers supply. I’ve enjoyed logging on every week to see what is available. Recently I saw salmon, grass fed beef and coffee added to the list. Many items that are listed are not easily available in most mainstream stores, so it is nice to have an easy method of obtaining these items, especially since festivals and markets are not all running these days. New products are being added frequently to the site.
I had the opportunity to give the whole farm-to-table experience a try, first hand. From creating an account to browsing and ordering online to having the order delivered to my home then enjoying the items with my family. The whole process was very easy and straightforward and I received the items within a few days, as I had ordered some refrigerated items which are delivered on Wednesdays and Saturdays. My order was correct, intact and the items delivered were high quality and very fresh.
I recently asked Colin Schmit, CEO of DirectFood.store some additional questions about this new local business and how the whole concept works:
Are you planning on bringing on lots more suppliers? Diversified suppliers?
We are continually seeking out additional diversity. Many of our existing products can’t easily be found on store shelves already, and new niche vendors are reaching out to us and coming onboard. If you know of any vendors you would like to see added, let them and us know!
Are there any suppliers that you can say will be coming on soon?
Yes, a steady stream of them: We have several new vendors onboarding every week here in the lower mainland, and we are currently onboarding our first dozen vendors ahead of launch in Victoria BC, Portland OR, and Charleston SC.
What are the requirements and how do suppliers get their products on DirectFood.store to sell?
In order for a supplier to be listed on DFS, a supplier must either be local to the region (within delivery area) and selling food that is grown in the region, or it must be certified organic. Items that require some processing or packaging, such as honey, may be listed as long as all (or at least the vast majority) of the ingredients are sourced from local farms. The suppliers upload their own product information, but we are here to help.
We are working with some locally sourced and certified organic suppliers of baking products and you should see some of those go live soon. We are strictly limited to food however, so soap and personal hygiene products are out of our scope.
What have been the biggest challenges so far with the start up of this business?
The biggest challenge is getting people to change their habits; that takes time. Many people love the concept and the offerings we have, but find themselves halfway to the grocery store when they remember that they wanted to order from us. We are seeing exceptional growth month-over-month and the level of interest and engagement is continuing to grow; but it will take time
What has been the most rewarding experience so far with the start up of this business?
Ordering from DFS ourselves is so fun, but really the positive feedback we hear from our customers takes the cake: Some of our customers go out of their way to call us up just to tell us how impressed they are – that’s just amazing to hear!
What is the purpose of the membership that you need to purchase for $0 in order to place an order?
We want people to understand there is a membership component from the start, and although we will always have a free membership, in the future we are going to offer value-added memberships that will bring much more value than they cost.
What is your guarantee policy?
We guarantee customer satisfaction for every purchase. If a customer is unhappy with their purchase we work with the supplier, our delivery partners, and the customer to uncover the source of the issue and determine the best resolution. We have issued refunds in some cases and organized additional food to top up a replacement in others.
What kind of feedback have you been getting from suppliers and customers?
We have a solid core group of repeat customers that is growing week over week. As above, some of them just call us up to say how impressed they are! The most common feedback we get aligns perfectly with our vision: they are amazed at how fresh the food is and the quality. The fact that we have free delivery on top of that takes second place to the feedback on the food.
What are the future goals of the company?
Our vision is to completely transform the grocery buying experience and expectations. We will expand to many regions, but each region will be local-first food. We are going to help build the local food ecosystem across North America simply because we have solved the logistics required to do so. Our partnership with Agrilyze (a centralized data analytics platform for farmers) will in turn create a positive feedback loop for continuous improvements in food production and quality.
Will customers be able to order and select the date they want it delivered?
Yes, this feature is coming soon!
Have you considered adding the farm-to-school concept and delivering to schools for their cafeterias and the backpack programs?
Yes, we are already in discussions with these programs
The future holds lots of great new things coming out of DirectFood.store. They are currently working on opening additional locations in Victoria, the USA and Latin America. They also have plans for an app so you can order easily from your mobile devices. You will soon be able to purchase gift codes so that you can share the gift of fresh, organic food to others and customers will be able to review the farmers products through their account by the end of October.
Charities and Non-Profit groups will soon be able to access a portion of the website where surplus items are listed and they can have access to the same prices as restaurants.
Right now DirectFood.store is working on getting the word out to consumers and to local farms and suppliers. To increase their customer base and increase the number of products offered. Local craft breweries and wineries are on the list of suppliers to be added as well.
If you have ever wanted to be a part of something big, this is your chance. The farm to table concept is growing in popularity and it’s a smart concept that isn’t going anywhere. As long as there are local farms and producers with products to sell, then DirectFood.store is here to help get those products onto the tables of consumers. It’s a win-win-win for consumers and businesses and the environment.
If you are a local farm/producer get in touch with DirectFood.store to see about adding your items to the site.
If you are a consumer, be sure to check the inventory of items frequently. The beauty of growth is that there will be so many new products listed weekly to choose from.