News - May 1, 2013

Fair market for farmers and home cooks

Selling food directly from wherever it is produced or grown gives producers a better price and consumers more sense of what they are eating. At the end of April two Wageningen students launched a website intended to bring producers and end users together:

Pim (left) and Mark bring consumers and producers together with the website
Basically, socialfoodmarket works as simply as Ebay or the Dutch site Marktplaats. Anyone can upload text and photos. A potato farmer from Zeeland or an apple grower from the Betuwe area can make use of it, as can someone who makes their own fruit juice or a home cooks who offers takeaway meals. 'We are a meeting point for suppliers. Meant for anyone who wants to pay a fair price to the producer directly,' explains Mark Lammers. The idea of the website came up one and a half years ago over a cup of coffee during a break. Mark and fellow initiator Pim Meurs (known as Wageningen's grand master at draughts) were brainstorming about how Mark's Greek 'father in law' could get a better price for his olive oil. Pim: 'Just like all the other growers, he gets a fraction of the retail price.' The powerful position of retail giants such as Albert Heijn is to blame, was their analysis. So they developed a system for bypassing the middlemen. Along with their enthusiasm and love of good food, they were helped by Mark's experience in the hotel world and with a caterer, and by Pim's draughts network.
Webshop has been online since 22 April, and producers and consumers can find each other there. A dozen producers have apparently expressed a firm interest in presenting their wares there. Eleven hundred other entrepreneurs who would be suitable candidates for the site have been approached by email. Producers can advertise on the site or point customers to their own website and perhaps webshop. Or they can use socialfoodmarket as an online store, for a small fee. Mark: 'Then a customer can order from several suppliers at one go and pay them all at the same time. Our system puts the order through to the suppliers and deals with the payments.'
The two students are full of ideas. 'Of the two of us, Pim is the realist,' jokes Mark. Yet even Pim sees endless possibilities. Through a draughts contact, he is considering importing Czech wine and selling it on the website, and he sketches various ways of helping a farmer to sell a few thousand kilos of potatoes at a go. They would also like to get into product development in collaboration with consumers and producers. Pim: 'Do you have any idea how much stuff you can spray-dry?' Mark can almost taste the pineapple powder on his ice cream already.