The local food economy, currently estimated at nearly $20B, is the fastest growing segment of the food sector nationwide. This market, driven by consumers’ desire to eat healthier, more sustainable food, has been expanding 4 times faster than industrial agriculture over the past decade. Independent and conventional grocers are quickly realizing that traditional manual procurement methods aren’t efficient enough for them to leverage and scale their customers’ desire for local, fresh food. That’s where Forager comes in – and where this 2 year-old startup thrives.
David D. Stone, founder of Forager, and his team have created a scalable procurement system for local food, transforming the grocery local food supply chain. Forager has taken an analog, outmoded legacy process and updated it to digital, with real time connectivity, Slack-like features, data analytics and radical simplification.
David has taken a carefully considered path to building the business: “As a successful serial entrepreneur, I know that this is more a marathon than a sprint. My last company, CashStar, which transformed the plastic card gift card business, took 6 years to reach scale and achieve more than $1B in sales,” notes David. “I studied this sector for 32 months supported by grants, my own capital, talking with dozens of farmers to understand how they sell into wholesale channels; and to buyers like restaurants, grocers, and distributors. I started small and focused on experimenting in a small market and then scaling in this locale given the requisite need to build a network with sufficient enough volume to demonstrate value.”
Fast forward to just over 2 years since commercialization, and with a team of just 7, nearly 70,000 local products have been sourced through Forager across 8 states, via 25 grocers and 250 farms and small local artisanal grocery suppliers. In 2018, Forager enabled millions of dollars in local food sales. The company’s momentum is significant, growing more than 3x in 2019 YTD over the prior year. Sales included an expansion into three market categories: deli, bakery and wellness products such as CBD.
Grocers, both large and small, are seeing the benefits: local sales among suppliers grew by double digits in the first year of using Forager. For independent farmers, Forager is a very good business opportunity; in 2018, suppliers who adopted the platform saw, on average, an 11 percent increase in sales over those who did not use Forager. Both grocers and farmers benefit from the average time savings shown by the data: 10- 20 hours less time spent buying local food during peak season on the platform versus without the platform.