Amazon brings farmers market goods to Prime doorsteps
If Amazon and start-up partner Fresh Nation are successful with tests of their new Farmers Market Direct service, consumers across the country may soon be spared the joy of visiting their community-based bazaars.
Farmers markets (nearly as old an institution as farms) may be the original experiential retail format. People go for the summer breezes, the aroma of ripened fruit and fresh cheeses, the sun-weathered faces of the farmers, and to say "hi" to neighbors (and pretend to appreciate their neighbors’ dogs). And yes, access to presumably fresher/healthier produce and artisanal products is also a huge motivator, even when prices are not necessarily better than at local stores.
Given the sensual and social allure, how then does the appeal change when farmers market produce becomes available for home delivery via the web? The question is being explored in the Southern California rollout of Farmers Market Direct, the brainchild of Tony Lee and his Connecticut-based company, Fresh Nation.
Mr. Lee’s aspirations, it appears, have been Amazon-sized from the get-go. He reportedly began by spending about a year compiling a national database of farmers markets and vendors. Tests followed in Southern California and on the East Coast. Once he felt ready, Mr. Lee took the idea to Amazon, which by that point had AmazonFresh off the ground.
Source: Farmer’s Market Direct
Amazon, already gaining valuable experience delivering perishables with AmazonFresh, has worked out a neat delivery system using oversized, reusable bags that accept slim Styrofoam inserts to keep fresh foods cool and cushioned. And yet getting fresh produce delivered to homes in good shape within 36 hours of harvesting is a daunting challenge.
"That’s the problem we were trying to solve," Mr. Lee told the Los Angeles Times. "How do you get fresh local food every day that’s as easy as buying supermarket food?"
To tackle the challenge, Fresh Nation works up a demand estimate and places orders with vendors. Personnel then head out to the farmers markets where they package up the individual orders, thus taking advantage what Mr. Lee sees as "a very efficient distribution center for fresh local food in all the main urban areas." The orders are transported in refrigerated trucks to the Amazon DC in San Bernardino; then distributed in Amazon trucks to homes.
To receive deliveries, according to the LA Times, customers must be enrolled in the Amazon Prime Fresh program that currently comes with a $299/year membership fee. Customers can buy individual items or — in the style of grass-roots food coops — choose to receive "baskets" of assorted fruit, vegetables or both for $59 (large) or $39 (small).
The rollout is currently underway in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties with plans to shortly test-launch in New York City before planning further expansion.
- Amazon begins delivering farmers market goods to Southland customers – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub)
- Amazon brings the farmers market to you – Mother Nature Network
Do you see a major business opportunity in the new Farmers Market Direct venture? What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the service: quality control, logistics, supply/demand balance? If rolled out nationwide, how might it affect the business of farmers markets and vendors?