- Regional Boston grocery chain Roche Bros. Markets has partnered with Forager, an online and mobile platform that connects grocers and local suppliers, the company announced Tuesday in a press release.
- Under the new partnership, more than 20 stores under the supermarket's three banners — Roche Bros., Sudbury Farms and Brothers Marketplace — will have access to the Forager platform, forming an “alternative supply chain” capable of expanding locally sourced options and bypassing legacy systems and produce distribution centers.
- Forager’s technology streamlines the process of fresh, local suppliers, including farmers, fishers and ranchers, linking up with grocers, aiming to solve what can often be a slow, decentralized and fragmented supply chain.
The platform's partnership with Roche Bros. is a positive sign for its efforts to scale up from its Maine pilot, as local sourcing for larger supermarkets can encounter hiccups, such as costly inspections of quality and safety standards and expensive additions to delivery operations.
Sourcing local ingredients can take as much as 60 hours of work each week for groceries, and working through distribution centers chips away at stores’ profit margins, Forager said in 2017. Forager, which was founded in 2015, aims to streamline shipment and payment for grocers by centralizing local supply data.
Consumer demand for fresh, locally sourced products is holding strong. The number of farmers markets has continued to increase since the mid-1990s. As shoppers took to grocery e-commerce in March and April, small mobile companies offering farm-to-consumer service witnessed a huge uptick in interest. Produce deliverer WhatsGood saw its sales volume increase 600% in three weeks spanning late March to mid-April, while Market 2Day, a similar service, said orders were 50% larger than before the coronavirus pandemic, The Boston Globe reported.
Delivery services that directly partnered with local artisans, farmers and fishers have attracted shoppers’ attention in recent years. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Good Eggs, an e-grocer that works with local growers, received significant venture capital investment in 2018.
Several farm-to-table delivery companies have begun expanding into other regions of the U.S. as the San Francisco Bay Area becomes increasingly oversaturated with providers. San Francisco-based GrubMarket, for example, announced last month it was entering the Texas market with its acquisition of Fresh Tex Produce.
Online platform RangeMe dominates the farm-to-grocer identification process, with Walmart, Target, Ahold Delhaize USA and Albertsons all using the site to find new suppliers of CPG food products.
The direct-to-consumer channels have the potential to disrupt the traditional supply systems. Suppliers say supermarkets will need to rise to the challenge by streamlining how they source fresh food and accommodating local producers with USDA certifications.