Farm to Consumer Marketing
As restaurant closures during the pandemic have disrupted the food supply chain, people have been forced to find alternative ways to shop for the foods they use to find at their favorite restaurants. With estimates that 10% or more of restaurants may not reopen and since this pandemic situation could be with us for some time to come, it makes sense to examine farming distribution systems .
While grocery stores have been another key distribution point for many farms, there has been a growing population of people who prefer to buy directly from their local farm. This growth is primarily due to people being concerned with the quality of products and the desire to support local growers. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic. Health concerns with visiting a grocery store and the perceived better quality of foods from local growers could change the way people shop for produce and meats for years into the future. For this reason it is important that farmers look carefully at their distribution system and consider whether a farm to consumer distribution system might make more sense.
Farm Sales Online and Deliveries
It should be no surprise that farming goods are selling better than ever online. With social distancing, delivery of goods has exponentially increased. Many farmers are under pressure to find a new distribution network that can keep the flow of their products going out to consumers and have come to realize direct sales as an opportunity.
My own community of 500 homes has produce trucks, meat trucks and food trucks every week. I use a local farm for beef, pork and chicken. I place my order online and they deliver to a central location where our local community can pick up their orders. This is not a new thing in our community as we have had all of those goods in our neighborhood for some time, but the frequency of those visits and the popularity has soared.
Advantages to Direct Delivery
While delivery of goods to neighborhoods and homes may seem like a huge undertaking and a costly task there are many advantages to this process.
- With no grocery store mark-ups the distribution system may become profitable
- Meats and produce delivered can be fresher and healthier
- Farms form a relationship with their customers
- Home cooking grows to higher levels freeing up money once spent on dinning out which can be spent on more meat, more produce and higher quality meats and produce
- The USDA reported that between 2002 and 2012 that farms with Direct To Consumer (DTC) sales were 24% less likely to fail.
There are some things to consider when setting off in a direct to consumer operation.
- How will people place their orders?
- Will orders go directly to homes, to a community location or Farmers Markets?
- How will you collect payments? In advance or on location?
Collecting orders and payments
The easiest way to collect orders and collect payments would be via an online store. Stores can be very basic and more hands on to manage to more advanced and more automated, requiring less time managing. Integration of your POS and/or accounting system could greatly simplify the ordering and fulfillment process.
Once you get your order system automated your main responsibility would be adding inventory to the store and delivery of the products with the payment already taken care of.
What you choose to do may depend on what budget you have to work with initially, but over time automated purchases online make the most sense.
Think Outside of the Box
Once you have your order and delivery system up and running don’t stop there. Think of what your customer wants and needs. If you sell beef you might want to add a special wine of the month, or a decadent desert. You could have a custom ranch grill designed with your logo. There are also thousands of cooking gift items available to choose from.
The marketing potentials are unlimited.
If you operation is not large enough to budget for a direct delivery system of your products then consider one of the many delivery options that are available in most parts of the country. Some of these delivery services have been set up for restaurant deliveries, but there is no reason they could not do delivery of other goods. And if you can offer some steady stream of delivery orders drivers will be happy to do the driving for you.
Some examples of delivery services are:
- Plus a host of independent delivery people eager to get more business
While a direct to consumer model may not work for very large farms, delivery directly to consumers for small to mid-sized farms has proven to be a profitable venture. Direct to Consumer businesses may also feel less of an impact on their incomes when supply chains are interrupted or break down.
If you are interested in how you could turn your farm into a Direct to Consumer business give us a call today.
Contact us: WSI marketing consultant