Foodzie is Etsy for Food

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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.

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  • http://cloudislands.com Adrienne Adams

    Foodzie is a great idea to promote artisan food producers.

    I see a few issues with the site as it is now. There’s no Search function–a tag cloud is not a substitute for search. The tag cloud’s a mess, really, so how is one supposed to find anything?

    Also, I’m concerned that Foodzie is missing one of the most important aspects of buying from artisan producers–buying locally. The environmental cost of shipping food across country is substantial. It’s only once the visitor drills down to a company’s profile does she discover where the producer is located. Why not show the site visitor the state (or to be really with it, bioregion) of the producer? That would make Foodzie a really impressive service.

    It will be interesting to see this company develop. There’s a lot of interest in sustainable agriculture right now, and helping producers market their products can really help that movement.

  • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

    This is superb Josh.

    I remember when farmers markets were all over the South, and anyone could get the very best fruits, vegetables and the like fresh from the soil pretty much. They scarcely exist any more. I think you have touched on something that will effect the entire Web soon, that is highly targeted and excellent niches.

    Face it, the WalMart mentality has watered down nearly every consumable to the point where i think people are ready to reinvest in quality. Personal in this context, is where we are headed. Sometimes behind us is the best direction. Thanks for bringing us Foodzie – cool.

    Always,
    Phil

  • http://www.arwebdesign.net samanime

    I think this is a really great idea. I’ve been trying to buy local and homegrown for a good while now, but it is really difficult where I am because the food markets are small and only once a week (which can’t really work with my schedule), so it’s nice to see this website. Hopefully it’ll work out well and it’ll really expand the “local” buying for everyone.

  • hembeck

    Good marketplace, but the pricing is very expensive for the quantity being sold for many of the available. I say this because like the author, I am fortunate to have several farmer’s markets and artisan producers nearby. It seems the inflated prices are to compensate for the 20% cut that the site gets for each sale. But if you are in an area where “homegrown” products are unavailable, the premium pricing may be worth it.

  • http://www.GoodsWithStory.ca Ildar Shar

    Foodzie is a great concept! I think people will always search for these great items from local producers across the country, and Foodzie – being one of the first to offer the solution – will do well!

  • http://www.FlirtyAprons.ca Mike

    Hey Josh, do you know how Foodzie is doing almost 3 years after you write this story on them?