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2 Ideas for Improving the Distribution of Fresh, Local Food

WhatsGood connects food producers and restaurants, making local goods more readily available

4  Minute Read

When it comes to food, the buzzwords “fresh” and “local” dominate. About three-fourths of Americans, according to Gallup, actively try to consume more local foods.    

Yet at grocery stores across the United States, little of the food is fresh or local. A majority of produce is imported from foreign countries. “Next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up those products and take a look,” says Matthew Tortora, founder of WhatsGood. “The organic tomatoes that you’re finding in your grocery store, I could almost guarantee you are either coming from Mexico, Canada, or if not, at best coming from California.”

WhatsGood, which has raised nearly $7m in funding, matches food producers with nearby restaurants and institutions. It also recently began a delivery service of a la carte farm-fresh goods to consumers.  

Similar opportunities to make local, fresh goods more available could change the grocery industry, which has been struggling with sales for years. According to McKinsey, sales growth has been 2% the last decade, with profits falling as grocers compete against bargain stores. McKinsey notes the industry is “ripe for a major shakeout.”  

Idea 1: Build a platform that solves logistical barriers for grocers

WhatsGood has helped bring together farmers looking for more places to sell their products and restaurants that want to sell more local goods. But most of those restaurants have simple buying structures. 

That is not the case for grocery stores. National and even regional chains typically have a centralized buying program that purchases goods for all stores, Tortora says. They lack relationships and connections with local farmers and would need to restructure their process.  

“You’ve got to basically break it down to the store level,” Tortora says. “The individual store would actually have to go and find the different food producers…Then the challenge for that retailer, as a whole, is that one store will not have the same things that the other store has.”

Idea 2: Create a truly local grocer 

Quaint as it may sound, a store that specializes in local would be providing products unavailable at most chain stores. “If I were creating a retail location right now, that’s primarily what I would be thinking about is how can I differentiate my store from the rest,” Tortora says. “[A local emphasis] would be a clear differentiating factor.”

One company, the virtual grocery store Good Eggs, is using a similar approach in San Francisco. By going virtual and serving customers on demand, stores can eliminate the amount of food that goes to waste.