Category Archives: food

Food Innovation Start-Up Companies Including Door to Door Organics

In March of this year, I reported here that some expect online grocery sales to eventually account for around half of grocery sales in the developed world. The driver of that would be that the online grocer could become the cheapest source with the most selection. Back then, Reuters covered Amazon’s potential to move into groceries.

Now it is nine months later, and a company located in Louisville, Colorado is emerging as a successful model for online groceries. Called “Door to Door Organics”, the company has built an extremely efficient model of carrying out services even at very low volume levels. So far, it is operating in 30 cities that are located in 11 regional markets including Denver, Chicago, and Kansas City.

According to Arlon Group, a stake-holder in Door to Door Organics, this is one of the few companies in the online grocery business that has demonstrated profitability.

Both Amazon and Google are also trying to compete in the online grocery business, which had a 3.3 percent market share of the total grocery industry at the end of 2013. This is set to increase as much as five-fold in the next decade. So far online grocery sales are exceeding expectations in pace of growth. At $27 billion in dollar amount this year, the amount could increase to $123 billion in ten years.

Boulder County here in Colorado is a hot bed of food start up companies. In other interesting local news, an organic dried fruit company, Made in Nature, reports having difficulty finding apricot and fig suppliers. For this company, consumer demand exceeds available producer supplies.

A Boulder Ice Cream maker also reports a shortage of wholesale organic milk due to the overall strong Chinese demand for regular milk powder. As organic milk demand increases here in the U.S., apparently more U.S. dairy producers are abandoning organic production to cash in on the more lucrative sales of regular milk powder to China.

The company “Overstock” has recently announced that it would become a virtual farmers market. Overstock now has a “farmers market” webpage dedicated to orders of “straight from the farm” and “local delivery” products. The page includes categories such as “fresh produce”, snacks, preserves, dairy, and pickled products. This sounds like a great idea and I hope it is a useful outlet for producers without having killer overhead costs. There are quite a few online ventures attempting similar marketing ambitions, eventually a few will probably become the dominant outlets once they establish their name recognition and reliability.

Another interesting food innovation online company is “Plated”. This business prepares ingredients for meals and sends them to the purchaser’s doorstep, a bit like a catering service except that you do the cooking. Each week consumers can pick among changing menu options available in their zip code. Some people are apparently hoping this service will help them with weight control.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? If more consumers order their food via the internet, then more can order directly from the small farmer-producer, and cut out the middle man. There could be many bright future opportunities for the young entrepreneurial farmer here. Already, I know a neighbor a few houses down from me who orders his organic soybeans from a farmer in Iowa, which he then uses to make his own soy milk.

Is it possible to have a trusted site for small farmer sales, similar to the platform Etsy provides for artists? Or is it too complicated getting food product certifications and approvals while weeding out the impostors such as those that appear under false pretenses at the farmers markets? Will one such platform eventually dominate from all those, including the USDA, who are currently trying?

Time will tell. Comments including other ventures similar to those mentioned above are welcome.


Photo credit: FlickrCC by Alden Jewell – 1954 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery.

It’s About Time that South Park Does a Spoof on Gluten-Free

I’ve never bought into the gluten-free craze, even though I live in Boulder, which embraced the movement from day one. Now, 99 percent of our grocery stores are devoted to gluten-free products. Well, maybe not quite that much, but it’s certainly in your face when you walk into the grocery store. Items such as shampoo for dogs are labeled gluten-free and customers are sure to choose the gluten-free dog shampoo over the dog shampoo that is not labeled gluten-free. This is sadly true, and I supposedly live in one of the smartest towns in the nation. Argh.

A few years ago, at my local Kroger’s grocer, I was picking out a flour to make bread. A very young couple was shopping for gluten-free flour-like products near me. So, mystified, I asked them why they’d gone gluten-free. They explained to me very enthusiastically that gluten coats your food in your bowels so you cannot obtain the nutrients in your food and now that they’d gone gluten-free they felt SO MUCH BETTER. (They looked really healthy to me.) I left the store with my bag of flour unconvinced.

In this episode, South Park rather impressively presents the USDA and our Secretary of Agriculture. I’m not sure why they make Vilsack look so good. He’s more handsome and thinner than in real life, and they have him wearing a white lab coat as if he’s a scientist, and not the tie wearing lawyer-politician which he really is.

The crude-humor (warning – DO NOT watch if you are sensitive to crudeness) based in Colorado clever and funny South Park has finally done an episode on gluten-free ebola. Everything they do is centered around bad taste.

The New Avant-Garde Markthal in Rotterdam

This month a cutting edge piece of prominent architecture has opened in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. A giant horseshoe arch which houses a food court market the size of a soccer field below, is made up of apartment dwellings with open air balconies above. The food market will be open seven days a week and there is a large amount of underground parking below.

For those who buy or rent the new apartments contained in the structure, they will have the ultimate opportunity to eat, shop, or work local with fantastic views of the city.

There will be 100 fresh produce units, 15 food shops, 8 restaurants, 228 apartments and 1,200 parking places included in this market hall concept.

The market is to sell “fresh and affordable fair products” arranged with bread and dairy in the hall’s center, fish and meat on one diagonal, and potatoes, vegetables, fruit and delicacies on the other diagonal. Four separate fresh produce units will be spread out across the floor for seasonal products or specials.

The arch is ten stories tall.

This fearless architecture food center is sure to become a huge tourist attraction in Rotterdam.

To learn more:

A Scientist’s Case Against GMO Labeling

Andrew Staehelin is a professor emeritus of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado here in Boulder. He wrote a guest commentary for our local newspaper titled, “GMO labels – a $500 food tax”. I think it would be wise for everyone to read it as it is as good as anything you’ll find on the subject and contains quite a few bits of information that I’ll bet you didn’t know before.

Here in Colorado we have an initiative on the ballot to label GMO products now that enough signatures were gathered for the vote. Many other states are also going this route. While I would love to see many parts of Ag policy change, I am not an advocate of GMO labeling, in part, because people can already buy GMO free if that’s what they really want. Also, I think “be careful what you wish for” applies here.

Here’s a link to the article which I do hope everyone will take the time to read and pass around.

Staehelin wrote another piece recently which I also strongly recommend concerning GMO rennet in cheeses. The article tells us that places like Whole Foods should be labeling most of their cheeses as having GMO content if they really want consumers to know which products contain GMO ingredients.

And, there is yet another important point (against the rationality of labeling) explained in this previous post:

Caution: GMO Labeling Regulations Could Soon Become Obsolete.