I’m very fortunate to live close to a pair of great weekly farmer’s markets, but in many parts of the country, getting locally produced, farm fresh foods is a difficult — or at least expensive and time consuming endeavor. The New York Times today profiled a new site called Foodzie that aims to bring the farmer’s market into the 21st century by creating an Etsy-style web marketplace for small artisan food producers and growers. If Etsy is an online craft fair, Foodzie is an online farmer’s market.
Foodzie is the product of three 20-something entrepreneurs backed by the TechStars incubator program, and a $1 million angel round led by SoftTech VC and First Round Capital. According to co-founder Rob LaFave, 97% of the US doesn’t have access to artisan foodmakers, which is why there’s a good chance that a site like Foodzie will find a market.
Anyone familiar with Etsy will feel more or less at home using the site, which carries any homegrown or homemade food that can be shipped, including breads, cheeses, chocolates, coffee and tea, oils, vinegars, meats, and snacks. Sellers can set up an online store on the site, which focuses exclusively on food (and the occasional handmade complimentary food item) and Foodzie takes a 20% cut. That may seem high, but LaFave tells the New York Times that it is a much smaller percentage than those taken by typical food retailers and distributors (which range above 50%).
According to the Times piece, Foodzie is planning to add videos and other social networking features to allow buyers to communicate with and feel closer to the people making and selling the food. The impersonal nature of ecommerce makes recreating the local market feel difficult. Even Etsy, which did $12.9 million in sales last month, has very rudimentary communication tools, which can make forging a connection with sellers difficult.
I know a number of the farmers who sell regularly at the farmer’s market near my house, in my experience, it’s nice to have that personal connection to the things I consume.
There are actually some food items sold on Etsy as well, but discovery is an issue. Because Foodzie is focused on its niche of homegrown artisan food products, they hope that they can compete, even if Etsy expands their food offerings. And because Etsy is part of the Handmade Consortium, we tend to think they’d welcome more places for small, independent producers to sell their goods.
I know I’m excited about Foodzie.