Supporting local food producers with a digital farmers’ market.
  • E-commerce Site Connects Local Food Growers to Food Distributors and Restaurants

    August 12, 2017

    e-commerce website digital farmers marketplace local food

    Flanagan Market: Ontarians’ connection to local food producers.

    by Maureen McCabe

    I was interviewed by Paul Attfield for his article, A digital farmers’ market brings local foods to Ontarians in The Globe and Mail DECISION MAKERS series about mid-sized Canadian companies.

    Attfield was looking for a small business marketer’s insight as Flanagan Foodservice had just launched Flanagan Market, a digital farmers’ online marketplace for small local food producers. My comments focused upon the risks and benefits for the company.

    Flanagan Foodservice – Great Brand

    Flanagan Foodservice is the largest Canadian-owned independent foodservice distributor. Based in Kitchener, Ontario, they have served thousands of Ontario businesses, in particular restaurants, hotels and food distributors across the province for over 40 years.

    Before my interview, I researched Flanagan online and spoke with a top-notch caterer, one of my customers. He has placed many orders and was always satisfied. Flanagan’s strong and reputable brand is known to listen carefully to their customers.

    “We kept hearing from customers that local food is a priority for them, so we set out to build a comprehensive local food program that we’ll be able to build on year after year,” said Peter Bozzer, Director of Procurement, Flanagan Foodservice.

    Flanagan Market: E-commerce Website

    Flanagan’s local food program branded “Flanagan Market” premiered in May 2017; it is a digital farmers’ marketplace that enables small local food producers to:

    • Showcase their fresh produce and products
    • Gain exposure to thousands of Flanagan Foodservice customers who regularly visit the website and now the Flanagan Market
    • Build the food producer’s reputation

    The e-commerce platform is a great source for local products from restaurants and caterers, hotels and resorts, health care and institutional services to grocery outlets and other businesses, all of which want to buy fresh local produce from fruits and vegetables, meat and fish to cheese and honey. It’s nice to buy from our neighbours and support local businesses. Plus, the added bonus for consumers, like me, is that many of us look for the word “local,” whether it’s in a grocery store or restaurant menu.

    Our Ontario is Flanagan’s local food program, which has over 400 Ontario products available in its warehouses, as well as provides access to the thousands of other niche local products across the province through its partnership with Local Line.

    Also based in Kitchener, Local Line software specializes in providing sales platforms for farmers, brewers, vineyards, butchers and other food suppliers. It was a great local match.

    Beware of Lending Your Reputation

    By offering producers’ products on their website, Flanagan is lending their name and reputation for the quality of the produce as well as timely delivery. In the article I was quoted, “…it’s not just a question of Flanagan’s offering this marketplace but they’re doing some vetting of who they’re putting there.”

    For example, when a caterer orders 50 pounds of potatoes and 25 pounds of tomatoes from two farms for a Friday-morning delivery, they must be delivered on time. In this case, the wedding must be prepped two days before. If they are not, the caterer will look to both the producer/farmer and to Flanagan, despite any disclaimers by Flanagan; he will perceive them as the matchmaker and hold both accountable.

    I suggested that this may be a vulnerability for their online presence, but if handled correctly it will only enhance Flanagan Foodservice, and increase the popularity and success of their business acting as the go-between for small local food growers and purchasing outlets.

    NOTE:  I was surprised to learn at my local farmers’ market that “local” is a term that literally describes any distance within the province such as brussels sprouts grown in the Bradford Holland Marsh to delivering produce to an Ottawa restaurant or local market, in this example, over 400 kilometers away.

    How the Digital Farmers’ Marketplace Works

    Step 1:  It’s much like an Ontario farmers’ market where there are typically only small local food producers.

    Food producers that are interested in selling their produce and products can contact Flanagan by email at [email protected].

    Step 2:  Flanagan’s selects each food producer based on requirements such as the following:

    • Established business
    • Food-safety certification
    • Delivery options

    Step 3:  Once approved, the producer can add their produce and products with photos and their delivery timelines. The customer purchases directly from local growers.

    Step 4:  Fresh local products are delivered on time.

    Read The Globe and Mail article to learn more about Flanagan Market.

    Let us know what you think about using local food producers for Ontario businesses. Contact McCabe Marketing to explore how we can help “grow your business.”  Yes, the pun is intentional.

    Check out our other blogs about business marketing tips:

    How to Get Media Interviews for Your Business
    Customer Video Reviews Are Hot
    How Marketing Videos Generated Multiple Media Interviews – Twice with The Toronto Star!

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