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Think inside the box

writer: Nikki van Coller

More and more farmers are ending up in the kitchens of South Africans via different, more collaborative channels. Way before we were in the midst of a global pandemic, the delivery of weekly boxes of fresh produce, meal ingredients, preserves and other food products was already growing in popularity. Since deliveries have been allowed again after the initial lockdown period, more and more farmers and enterprising people are seeing the opportunities that exist for curating and delivering farm produce to more and more homes.

Should you consider getting your produce into a box?

Photo: U-Cook

As a producer, you may never have thought of – or indeed needed to – consider joining a curated produce delivery collaborative, but if your products are not selling through the usual channels, it might be a real option. Whether you have lost customers due to travel and tourism restrictions, or have had to stop production because of a lack of staff or sales, what (or what else) do you have that you could add to a delivery scheme?

You may have made most of your profit from your accommodation or venue offering, with mom’s marmalade a little side business before, but now might be the time to turn the marmalade business into the main income-generator. Or perhaps you have a big pre-lockdown batch of pickled chillis sitting in the pantry that you didn’t get to sell at your usual market days. Or perhaps you haven’t been able to sell your meat where and how you did in previous years and now have an abundance of animals that need to be culled.

Don’t let the changes and restrictions stop you from making a profit on the food you produce or could produce if you changed your farm’s focus.  Here are a few ideas you may want to consider.

Photo: Real Food Company

BECOME A SUPPLIER TO A CURATOR

Consider getting onto the supplier list of a box delivery service near you, or chat to your neighbouring producers and see if you can put something together yourself. As a start, you could approach and become a supplier to an already-established product curator such like U-Cook, The Real Food Co., Organic Box, Daily Dish or similar, in your area.

U-Cook

Cape Town U-Cook was started as a “recipe and ingredients” delivery service, where the hassle of coming up with dish ideas and doing the shopping is taken away. The recipes are designed by top chefs and the concept allows the home cook to truly impress at a dinner party, even with limited time. When the pandemic hit us, the founders quickly focused more on “market boxes”, collaborating with local producers to deliver a variety of ingredients.

From their website: “When your doorbell rings on a Thursday and you open your Market Box, it will be brimming with the freshest and brightest assortment of produce from Cape Town’s various local artisans. But, this is more than just a box of ingredients – your Market Box is a collaborative effort between our city’s small-scale farms and food businesses to keep our local food economy alive during these uncertain times.” Not only do they offer delectable boxes, they’ve also raised more than R1 million in seven weeks to help feed the poorest people affected by Covid-19. www.farmersmarket.ucook.co.za

Photo: Organic Box

The Real Food Company

Whereas U-Cook put together a weekly box based on what they curate from their suppliers, RealFoodCo lets customers simply “shop” from their website and have their box delivered to their door. www.realfoodco.co.za

Organic Box

The Namibian company Organic Box offers much more than just food – their suppliers include local bakers, farmers, co-ops, wood suppliers and more. A leaf from their book could mean seeing which suppliers are closest to you and teaming up to create a local delivery service of varied products – from handmade soap to raw organic oats. www.organic-box.com

Photo: Daily Dish

Daily Dish

Daily Dish set themselves apart by offering different box types, depending on the way the customer prefers to eat – vegetarian, fitness and express are some of the options for weekly meal kits. www.dailydish.co.za

SELLING THROUGH OTHER ONLINE PLATFORMS

Another option is to sell through an already established online platform, such as Yuppie Chef. Put together two or three “hamper-style” boxes of your products and offer them to an online reseller, as Wild Peacock has done.

Photo: Wild Peacock

COLLABORATE WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS

You could become a curator yourself and source from neighbouring producers. Karoo farm Boxes (www.karoofarmbox.co.za) are a good example of this. They sell luxurious boxes packed with high quality products from the Karoo; each product made or produced with love and care. Every box is a delight for the recipient and an income for each one of the suppliers who contribute to the box.

Photo: Karoo Farm Box

COME UP WITH A NEW PRODUCT

What resources, meaning raw material, knowledge, passion, space, skills and/or equipment do you have that you could use to create a single product that you could deliver or have delivered either in your local area, nationally or internationally? What could you make or create that your market will love? Is it a secret recipe relish? Handmade ties? Cheesecake kits? Dog beds? Curry paste? Knitted laptop bags?

Find one single thing and market it the right way, to the right people, for a single purpose (see www.braaiplank.co.za).  Sometimes your one thing can simply be an ethos, like with Farmer Angus (www.farmerangus.co.za) – a name any ethical meat eater will know by now. Biodynamic and regenerative agricultural principles and practices are applied in the raising of the farm’s animals and the onsite butchery is the only one in the country that does not add gluten and nitrites to the meat processes.

Photo: Braaiplank

Now, more than ever, it may be time to jump onto the “buy local” / artisanal product bandwagon and sell your wares through alternative methods. Speak to your neighbours, look at what others are doing and find a way to get your produce into the homes of South Africans and an income into your pocket.

BOX SCHEMES AROUND THE COUNTRY

Faithful to Nature – Large selection of healthy goods, including 9 different food boxes.
JHB and Cape Town / www.faithful-to-nature.co.za 

The Bowery – They offer a wide range of products in their curated boxes.
Various areas in JHB / www.thebowery.co.za 

Those Who Harvest – Delivering fresh produce from farms in the Piketberg area.
Piketberg and Cape Town / www.thosewhoharvest.com 

Sagra Foods – Deliver a large selection of pantry items.
Cape Town and Durban / www.sagrafoods.co.za

The Veg Box Company – Customers can build their own box from the selection of fresh fruit and veg.
Pietermaritzburg and surrounds / www.thevegboxcompany.co.za 

Organic Footprints – Delivering fresh fruit and veg, as well as food, pantry, garden and pet items.
Port Elizabeth / www. organicfootprints.co.za 

Pure Boland Market – Offering a wide variety of goods from the Boland area.
Boland / www.purebolandmarket.co.za 

Meat The Farmer – Delivering meat, and meat only, from various farms.
Johannesburg / www.meatthefarmer.co.za 

Doorstep Dairy Man – Delivering a variety of dairy brands and products.
Cape Town / www.doorstepdairyman.co.za

Filed under: Direct Sales

by

Nikki is an experienced copywriter with a BA in Communication Science and 20 years’ experience. After spending 10 years at some of Cape Town’s top agencies, she decided to go solo – and she’s never looked back. When she’s not writing articles for magazines or corporate companies, she keeps herself busy with public speaking and writing books for children. She enjoys pottering around in her veggie garden that continues to outgrow its borders, likes to take walks or to spend time with her menagerie of pets.

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