I spoke with Bill Organ of Larder360.com, a Galway-based collaboration bringing farmhouse food online, about this exciting new initiative.
Larder 360 is basically an online farmer’s market, would that be an accurate description of what you do?
That’s exactly right. The idea is to give an alternative to the farmer’s market that’s available to everybody, not everybody would be able to get to their Friday morning market to buy fresh and buy local.
Can you tell me where the idea came from, have you always been involved in agri-food or has it been more of a business opportunity.
The idea came to me from Declan at Kinvara Salmon, and Brendan at Castlemine Farm. They’ve been researching this for years now, trying to figure something out together for four or five years. The great thing was Declan, Brendan and Ronan too as farmers already had their sales base, were already selling their own farm produce. A lot of the guys (our producers) wanted to set up websites of their own, so the idea with Larder 360 was to operate in a shared economy, pooling all resources to one website. It’s a really useful platform helping producers be more visible and more accessible.
As one of your suppliers Ronan Byrne said recently, if you don’t move with the changing times you get left behind…
Definitely, it’s so important for small producers to be able to compete. This way the producer themselves can log in and upload whatever they want, they can talk to the customer and put themselves out there in that way. Web design is my area, so that’s where I came in. Now I take care of all the deliveries, too. It’s been great so far, doing all the driving around, I love getting to meet the customers. We’ve been delivering for 12 weeks now.
McCambridge’s of Galway are a big producer, well known here in Galway so we were delighted to have them come on board. It’s that same ethos, catering for customers who are looking for quality and care in their foods, and making those kind of good foods as easy to get, as your weekly shop online from a big supermarket. We’re a one-stop shop for all the best local farm produce.
Your range is very impressive, there’s a great variety there, from coffee to fresh fish to oils and sauces.
We have 150 products on offer at last count, with five more yet to add. Cheese is our biggest seller at the moment. In the couple of months we’ve been up and running, we’ve had a lot of very positive feedback so far.
Looking at some of our figures, we’re in double digits in all demographics. 76% of customers have shopped with us two or more times, and 30% have placed 5 or more orders. It’s just nice to see the retention level.
We got a focus group together last week just to make sure we are keeping our clients happy. We’re looking out for the mother of the family who is very important to us, it’s important that she can trust the products. When you think about that case the other week, the controversy over meat labelling, they can laugh off a fine of that size and just continue with their business. But a small producer in a similar case, they have everything to lose. Everything we do is on record, we do all the tracing and tracking and it’s all available to the consumer in our labelling.
So you’re not like Amazon model then, there isn’t a big warehouse full of everything stocked up somewhere ready to go – you just operate on the basis of sort of translating an order to the producer, purely according to demand.
Yes, that’s exactly it, everything is totally fresh. We used to take orders once a week, and found that a lot of the products were selling out at a specific date. We’ve started taking orders twice a week. Our new delivery day is Tuesday. Delivering twice a week we can meet the demand, and that means everything perishable you get in your delivery from us has been produced within four or five days. I was really surprised actually by the vacuum packing, there’s absolutely no smell, no leakage nothing, so that’s an advantage I wasn’t expecting!
We do have what I call a ‘food hub’ where we are based across from the Maldron Hotel, and we can keep some of the items with a longer shelf life stocked up there, like coffee.
But I would say freshness is the driving force.
I think there’s kind of a shared responsibility among producers and consumers to address how we shop and eat, would you agree?
Everything’s protein and nutrition, a lot of people really are being very careful to eat well now and working out, whereas for my generation Supermac’s was “good food” because it tasted good! We deliver to the workplace, drop off the groceries there so people can just pack it into the car as they’re going home. A lot of the guys say they feel like they’re getting an extra half a meal for free, because of the portion sizes.
Given the success of your service so far, do you plan on extending your delivery area to other counties any time soon?
It’s been great to see such a positive response so far here in Galway, eventually we’re planning to expand to Dublin first, and the North. Eventually as near to nationwide as possible, yes. To help us get the kind of support and community spirit to get that stage we have a rewards programme for new customers.
…which people interested in buying farm fresh food direct with Larder360 can learn more about here!