No matter how hard they try there’s no denying that shopping at one of Australia’s major supermarkets constitutes an ultimately soulless experience, lacking in connection with the origin of products and their environmental impact.
One of the “disruptive” businesses looking to fill the growing consumer desire for a better and more ethical solution is grocery delivery service, Your Food Collective.
This week the company achieved a capital raise of $1.2 million, more than half of which came from a single large private investor and the rest a mix of consumers, producers and the business community.
Selling locally and sustainably grown produce, individually selected online or in food boxes and meal kits, the company is hoping to restructure the way Australia’s food systems work to slash emissions and align with net zero targets.
Refreshingly, it is one of the few companies to quantify the idea of “local”. In this case it means within 250 kilometres of the Newcastle distribution centre, which encapsulates the Hunter Valley and surrounds, as well as several producers in the Sydney Basin.
Co-founder and chief operating officer, Cara Cooper told The Fifth Estate that circularity was baked into the company from the ground up, and so far customers had proven more than eager to cut the crap from how they shop.
“We look at circularity throughout the whole supply chain — it’s not just a marketing spiel that some of the majors probably add on,” she said.
Producers are judged on their sustainability credentials, prioritising regenerative farming practices and helping those that want to improve their methods.
From its launch in 2017, the company now has 16 staff and has seen a year on year growth rate of 135 per cent and is projecting $5 million in revenue in FY22.
By its own estimates, the company says it has achieved a 60 per cent reduction in total household carbon emissions for over 15000 households, and reduced food waste by up to 50 per cent across the supply chain.
Keeping it local and sustainable
Operating on a short supply and just in time ordering basis means orders are received, processed and delivered within a day or two which drastically reduces wastage not just at the supply level, but also by delivering a higher quality product that is less likely to wilt in the vegetable crisper and thrown in the trash.
“It’s really about working with growers to harvest only what they need, and then bringing it into our warehouse within 48 hours so that consumers are getting a fresh product, that’s not only better for the environment, but it’s also often tastier,” Ms Cooper said.
The company’s other co-founder and chief executive, Lauren Branson who is also cousins with Ms Cooper, says to achieve a net zero circular economy would require “systemic change across all sectors of our food system”.
“If we can get food right, starting with the health of our soil, how our food is going, who it’s grown by and where it’s grown we can drive significant change and start building a food system that will nourish our people and the planet.”
An ecologist by trade, Ms Branson is hands-on in assessing growers techniques, visiting and engaging with them on all aspects from regenerative practices to packaging and customer feedback.
Consumers do pay more for produce than they would at the supermarket, however, part of that is seeing producers getting a greater return than they would from the major supermarkets.
“With supermarkets, they’re probably getting 20 per cent out of the dollar, whereas with us they can get anywhere from sort of 50 to 70 per cent because we’re working directly with them,” Ms Cooper explained.
The recent capital raise would help fund the company’s expansion ambitions, which includes adding a range of pantry products to the selection and branching out to other parts of Australia.
“We’ve had a number of people come to us and say, ‘how do we do what you guys do? How do we recreate these local food systems?’ she said.
“And so it’s really building out that technology and white labelling so we can have other people eating the way we do and supplying food the way we do, through Australia and globally as well.”