What if we could use technology-based products or services to grow local food systems ten-fold or even twenty-fold in the next few years–from one percent of the current food production in our country today to 10 to 20 percent in the next decade? Our new company, Goodeggs, seeks to do just that. Our hypothesis is that some technology-based product or service will be an important enabler of that future.
We’re a group of folks who care about the growth of local food systems–for the sake of health, environment, cultural impact, and plain old delicious meals. The six of us have been working in the technology industry for a number of years at big companies, startups, and everything in between. (We’ve even sold a a startup to Google!) During that time, we have been increasingly inspired by the local food phenomenon in the Bay Area and around the country.
A few months ago we decided to leave our jobs and put our technology skills and business resources in service of the good food movement.
Right now our company is in research and design mode as we attempt to invent technology that will grow and sustain local food systems. We’re trying to learn as much as possible about the massive wave of innovation going on in the local food universe: New CSA concepts, neighborhood grocers finding new ways to feed their customers, food hubs rebuilding infrastructure all over the country, community kitchens… the list goes on. In parallel, we’re learning about what drives people to spend their food dollars on local food instead of the alternative. What drives “convenience” in food shopping? What’s missing in the conventional grocery-shopping experience that can be met by new local food channels?
Our research isn’t being done in a library. It’s driven by real conversations we’ve been having with real people. In the past few months we’ve visited small farms and big farms, spent time interviewing food entrepreneurs and advocates, and followed along on grocery-shopping trips with a diverse set of folks.
Our latest research technique, started this past month, has been to run a mock daily grocery shopping service, where a small group of folks here in San Francisco have agreed to let us study their food shopping habits and run experiments in their food-lives.
Here are a few highlights of our research to date:
- The local food businesses that are making it work, profitably, truly care about their customers, across the board. As a result their customers are extremely loyal and a new kind of community starts to emerge. We hypothesize that a future with more small, relationship-driven food businesses is good for the local food system.
- The local food businesses that are making it work, profitably, have diversified their sales channels: They all have a base membership (structured as a CSA or otherwise), plus they’re set up to sell wholesale and at various markets.
- Most people demand the convenience of a modern grocery store: Wide operating hours, easy parking, fine-grained control over what goes into the cart. We think this is what might be preventing CSAs from going more mainstream.
- For most food shoppers, taste is king. People want their food to taste great, period. We see this as an inherent advantage for local food because most local food just tastes better.
- All sorts of food-shoppers crave inspiration about what to make (even the great cooks). This is an opportunity for the local food system–seasonal eating is inspiring!
- Most food decisions are based on a protein: What kind of protein do I want to cook/eat?
- Cooking during the week is much harder than cooking on the weekend.
We also have a number of questions that we are working on today and we hope you can help us answer some of them:
- What are the newest innovations on the CSA model? We’ve learned about bread CSAs, beer CSAs, membership programs that involve pre-paying for groceries. What else is out there that’s inspiring and what hasn’t been invented yet?
- We’re interested in learning more about delivery-grocery services. We’ve learned about services that deliver local groceries to offices, a new wave of milk-truck businesses across the country, pickup locations for prepared foods, and more. What else is working to bring people the next level of convenience with locally sourced food?
- People mean all sorts of different things when they talk about health or nutrition. What kind of patterns exist across large numbers of shoppers? Are there any health considerations, or ways of thinking about nutrition, that are universal?
- How can we create new job opportunities in the good food movement for the many unemployed and under-employed folks in our country today?
We’d love to hear from you all and encourage you to comment on this post. What sorts of inspiring examples have you seen in your own communities of local food entrepreneurs making it work? As leaders of the food movement, what patterns do you see emerging? What needs are there in your own communities that could potentially be met by technology-based products?
We’re looking forward to working with you all to build the future of the food movement.