Kristin’s farm-to-consumer model fills in food supply gaps at a critical time

Discussion
Photos: Kristin's Farm Stand
May 05, 2020
Kristin Varela

The direct-to-consumer food market is in constant motion, but during this unprecedented COVID-period, staying on top of the ball requires the nimbleness of a circus acrobat.

Kristin’s Farm Stand, is a full vertically integrated farm that grows, raises, harvests, packs and then delivers local, regeneratively raised pastured proteins and soil-grown veggies directly to our customers’ homes. Since 2018, our goal has been to operate under a level of trust and transparency that’s missing in much of today’s food supply chain by directly supplying nutritionally dense, healthy and safe foods.

We have seen a steady increase in our business since its founding as more consumers make the connection between food and their health. This increased significantly with COVID as more people started utilizing grocery deliveries. When the news dropped that many large commercial meat processors would be closing, growth jumped even further. Since then, there have been orders for the processors to remain open, and then next, the buzz of a potential union strike.

We’re poised to handle this upheaval as we only work with locally operated small-town meat processors. With the recent toilet paper hoarding fiasco still fresh in many American’s minds, however, even the mere suggestion of another possible shortage (this time food-related) causes immediate consumer anxiety and stockpiling.

Our staff had to start fielding many phone calls regarding this issue and pivot to plan for more protein packing and no-contact door-to-door deliveries that greatly extends the workload.

Our sanitization protocol has to be on point at all times, with GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification verifying that our products are packed, handled and stored safely. Additionally, we implemented additional new COVID delivery protocols, including mask wearing for our drivers, hand sanitization between every stop and more.

Communicating all of this to our customers was a public relations dance designed to be equally assuring and empathetic without raising anxiety levels.

As a small but growing business, we’re in a unique position to be able to help fill in the food supply gaps where the large commercial chain shows instability. We’re able to move quickly and take swift action while the COVID fulcrum is in constant motion. We aim to be the consistent source our customers can rely on for local, safe and healthy foods both now and after our economy settles back into a new normal.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can consumer-direct brands and retailers stay lithe and nimble during the COVID-period? What supply chain and other practices developed in response to the challenge do you think will prove helpful once the virus is under better control?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"A huge spike in online grocery delivery orders as a result of COVID-19 has created a prime opportunity for companies to launch or accelerate direct-to-consumer orders."
"This is an outstanding example of why and how small businesses can thrive. Well done!"
"A lot of these businesses are very nimble and able to cope with the challenges. As a result, they will emerge much stronger and with higher customer numbers."

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24 Comments on "Kristin’s farm-to-consumer model fills in food supply gaps at a critical time"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

As more shoppers look beyond traditional retailers, consumer-direct brands are coming into their own during this crisis. In many ways, the crisis has tested them – in terms of logistics, safety, communication, and so forth. But a lot of these businesses are very nimble and able to cope with the challenges. As a result, they will emerge much stronger and with higher customer numbers.

Kristin Varela
Guest
4 months 14 days ago

While the vertical growth can feel scary at the moment, I’m excited and curious to see how consumer behavior is modified on the other side of all of this.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Really pleased the business is going well! Good for you! 🙂

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

As discussed yesterday, D2C businesses need to really consider upgrades in supply chain (product, delivery, etc.) because I believe customers’ demand for their products (because of normal supply chain complications that major chains are experiencing) will continue to increase post-pandemic.

Kristin Varela
Guest
4 months 14 days ago

I agree – I’m interested to see how the post-pandemic consumer behavior is modified.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

With a huge spike in online grocery delivery orders as a result of COVID-19, this has created a prime opportunity for companies to launch or accelerate direct-to-consumer orders. We have seen it in CPG and Kristin’s Farm Stand is an excellent example of it being done in fresh vegetables and meats. The length of COVID-19 restrictions and concerns has given consumers time to enjoy the benefits of home delivery and many of these will become long-term habits. Home delivery in the U.S. has lagged other European and Asian companies and now they are catching up faster than expected.

Kristin Varela
Guest
4 months 14 days ago

Thank you for the positive feedback. We spotted the need/demand for a transparent and convenient option for fresh veggies and pasture-raised proteins direct to consumer, after my own family’s personal health need for “clean” local food, and frustration with misleading marketing at health food stores and grocery stores. I do believe this COVID time is sparking the desire for change with most consumers.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Before this crisis, despite decades of evidence supporting the nutritional, economic and environmental benefits of shopping local, consumers opted for fast and free shipping. Customer acquisition is always so difficult, and in a rare example of good news these days, the crisis has made acquisition much easier for those who can fill in the gaps left by larger brands and global supply chains. By their very nature, most local and not-so-local direct to consumer businesses are much more nimble than their multinational counterparts, so now is the time to put that advantage to work to keep the new customers that the crisis has surfaced. There is a real, tangible opportunity for local, direct-to-consumer businesses like Kristin’s Farm Stand to capitalize on this opportunity and to build long-term relationships with shoppers that last beyond this crisis. Just keep doing what you’re doing, Kristin, and I am betting people will stick with you long after this is over.

Kristin Varela
Guest
4 months 14 days ago

Thank you for the positive feedback!

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Shoppers are looking to local and consumer-direct brands for shopping choices during this current challenge. The supply chain has been compromised. In a soon to be published COVID-19 survey by Cambridge Retail Advisors 56 percent of C-level executives, when asked about the supply chain challenges faced by their organizations, said they were considering shifting product sourcing on shore or near shore. With constantly evolving supply chain issues and uncertainties, retail stores and restaurants need to be as nimble as possible to organize their supply chain to provide the customer with the maximum product availability while controlling costs.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

What is essential is shifting from week to week based on new demand patterns – from toilet paper to yoga mats to hair care products, etc. During these times, consumers will have less brand affinity for items perceived as essential.

Retailers and DTC brands can take advantage of this lessened brand affinity (importantly not sacrificing quality). They should first have good handle on evolving demand patterns and develop multiple sources of supply, alternative products and substitute products.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Agility requires collaboration and communication. To boost responsiveness, more retailers and DTC brands will invest in partnerships and technology to integrate and align their processes.

That’s because the competitive battle isn’t between companies – it’s between supply chains.

Now that consumers remain homebound, companies need to work together to bring the store to shoppers’ doorsteps. That’s why I expect to see more retail companies investing in logistics partnerships and digital information-sharing systems to boost efficiency and agility.

Kristin Varela
Guest
4 months 14 days ago

Interestingly, we’ve decided to keep logistics in-house. As a vertically integrated company, specifically in farming, cutting out middlemen gives us a strategic advantage in terms of controlling our pricing and also quality control and customer communications. Most farms have so many tiers between themselves and the end consumer, the profit margin is too tight, resulting in less nimbleness during uncertain times.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

Totally makes sense. A clear-eyed view of the entire supply chain to identify the high risk/high impact areas, and developing core competencies around that, makes sense. But given the capital intensive nature of the operations, I think some level of reliance on external partners is unavoidable as the operations scale up.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

The success of consumer-direct brands depends on several factors today: safety/sanitation; consistency of product and product flow; distribution; access to agile and flexible supply chains; and, of course, traditional concerns — access to capital, marketing, price, demand, brand loyalty, etc. The future looks good for DTC brands that weather the COVID crisis, because in order to do that they will have to have the kinds of supply chains and deep consumer knowledge needed to succeed — crisis or no crisis. As to what those supply chains ought to look like, I think we discussed that at length yesterday.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

All of the tactics developed to combat the virus should and most likely will be continued into the future. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Anyone here old enough to remember that one?!

Scott Norris
Guest

And the bonus in this case is that all these behaviors are also those that help minimize the emergence and spread of food-borne illness. As COVID-19 recedes someday, Kristin will still have an ongoing powerful message of safety she can communicate.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Great point, Scott!

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

A boost in farm-to-table approaches is likely to outlast the pandemic — but I don’t expect it to become a long term strength. The convenience of a grocery store will eventually dominate once the memory of the pandemic fades.

What a direct-to-consumer effort needs to do during the pandemic is accept the growth, but spend time identifying which of the new customers is most likely to stick with it for the long term.

Direct-to-consumer is a specialty which appeals to a target market. DTC can only be strong by remembering that — even when an act of god creates the appearance of a bigger market.

Kathy Kimple
BrainTrust

The advice I have is don’t bite off more than you can chew. The impression you make with consumers today will be crucial to your business once panic-buying has passed. While speed to market is important, so is getting it right. This is the time to reach out to colleagues and experts in the industry to provide advice about how you can scale your business efficiently and effectively.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Direct-to-consumer orders are increasing during the pandemic for all the reasons mentioned in previous posts. That is not surprising. The real challenge is maintaining that level of sales or increasing them after the virus is vanquished. Only smart operators who have mastered the fundamentals and can meet shopper expectations will prosper.

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust

During the current COVID-19 virus outbreak, most food retailers have increased home deliveries and BOPIS/Click and collect capacity. However, most have been unable to cope with the massive increase in demand. This has created an opportunity for smaller players who were not the first port of call to be able to pick up business as consumers looked for any form of home delivery.

To claim that they are better, have more control of hygiene or able to flex their supply chain more than major players is a stretch that is not necessarily a logical one. Farm direct to consumer is a wonderful ideal, but if volumes suddenly rise greatly they are unlikely to be able to fulfill customer demand any more than major food retailers and producers can. Yes, it is a good marketing opportunity, but take the high road at your risk of falling flat on your face.

Paco Underhill
BrainTrust

Hear hear. The local food movement is here to stay. We have to ask the tough question would you rather eat organic spinach that got picked two weeks ago in CA, or something picked a day ago, but without the national organic certification? The farmers market movement is no longer functioning under the radar screen.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

This is an outstanding example of why and how small businesses can thrive. Well done! My question is what local market or markets do you serve? How can businesses in other locations do this because not everyone can benefit from your store. Great model!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"A huge spike in online grocery delivery orders as a result of COVID-19 has created a prime opportunity for companies to launch or accelerate direct-to-consumer orders."
"This is an outstanding example of why and how small businesses can thrive. Well done!"
"A lot of these businesses are very nimble and able to cope with the challenges. As a result, they will emerge much stronger and with higher customer numbers."

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