Targeting consumers who like fresh and local produce but don’t go to farmers’ markets, Fresh Nation LLC wants to make the shopping trip an online experience for consumers.
Fresh Nation LLC delivers the produce of farmers’ markets to customers’ doors, said Tony Lee, founder of the Stamford, Conn.-based company that began in 2011.
Lee came out of the technology world and was set on the idea of opening his own farmers’ market.
“I wanted a complete break from technology, so we opened a smaller farmers’ market on the grounds of the Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, Conn. Lee had worked in technology and e-commerce for about 20 years previous to that.
“At that point I didn’t have a thought in my mind about the application of technology to farmers’ markets, but at the end of that (first year) I just decided that the world didn’t need any more farmers’ markets, it needed better farmers markets,” he said.
Lee said Fresh Nation has built the largest database of farmers’ market vendors in the U.S. Fresh Nation now has information on 15,000 markets and vendors and is beginning to exchange that information with publishers whose readers want to know about where their local farmers’ markets are.
After compiling the database, Fresh Nation began to digitize the farmers’ market experience, so consumers could pick the foods they want from a farmers’ market and place it in a virtual basket online. Fresh Nation sends its shoppers to the farmers’ markets, collects the produce and delivers it to customers, Lee said.
“You can get fresh-picked fruits delivered to your home from the farmers’ markets every day,” Lee said.
Currently, Fresh Nation operates in Fairfield County, Conn., and will expand to Orange County, Calif., by about May, he said.
“We’re expanding into New York on the East Coast and on the West Coast in Orange County, California. At the end of the summer, Lee said he expects the company will have 10 to 14 delivery areas.
Fresh Nation appeals to consumers who don’t typically go to farmers’ markets, he said.
“They are the people who want to eat fresh, local food who don’t go to farmers’s markets,” he said.
Fresh Nation doesn’t subtract from traffic at farmers’ markets, he said.
“If you are the type of person who typically goes to the farmers’ market, you will continue to go to that farmers’ market,” he said.
Many consumers can’t make it to a farmers’ market because of their schedule, or because of the operating hours of the market, he said.
“The (number) of people who want to eat fresh local produce is very large, it is just that they are not given the ability to get it, so those people become our customers,” he said.
Vendors who work with Fresh Nation benefit from additional business, apart from their normal traffic at the farmers’ market, he said. “They double their sales and get to the market already having sold a lot of food for that day,” Lee said.
Fresh Nation makes money through a $5.95 delivery charge and commissions on the food they sell from the vendor, he said. The company’s expansion has been funded by a group of investors, Lee said.
“Our goal is to create a brand out of Fresh Nation so that when you see fresh local food anywhere in the country, your automatic reaction is to reach out to Fresh Nation,” he said.