FreshSpoke, a tech start-up based out of Innisfil, launched FreshSpoke for Home this week, which means that consumers can now get fresh, local groceries from local businesses and farms while cutting out the grocery-store middle man.
They have also opened a distribution centre this week on Commerce Park Drive in Barrie’s south end, so customers have the option of picking up their groceries curbside or having them delivered to their homes for a small fee.
“We all got this knee-jerk wake-up call because of COVID-19. We have a broken supply chain. About 80 per cent of the food we eat everyday comes from south of the border. Due to COVID, that has slowed down significantly,” FreshSpoke chief executive officer Marcia Woods told BarrieToday.
Woods says that since COVID, desire for locally made products and services has exploded. She estimates that now, about 10 to 15 per cent of all grocery purchases are made online.
“The average food product goes through 30 hands to reach our plate. In the FreshSpoke model, we have turned that upside down,” she said. “We need a food system that isn’t dependant on imports.”
“Because we are a tech company, we’ve built an incredibly robust platform,” said Woods.
There are about 600 vendors whose products are already available through the site. Some hyper-local vendors include Cookstown Greens, Homestead Bakery in Barrie and Local Leaf Farms, a hydroponic grower, also in Barrie.
“This is a way for local businesses to get their products out to market, but they don’t have to be bogged down by managing an e-commerce store and figuring out delivery. We come in as a partner and take care of that for them,” she said.
FreshSpoke is available through web, iOS or Android, where customers can build their grocery order, then choose the option of curbside pick up at their distribution centre or delivery.
There is no additional fee for curbside pick up. For the months of November and December, delivery fees will be waived.
Woods said all delivery drivers are paid a fair wage, and delivery fees are calculated based on the size of the order. The new centre in Barrie will be delivering to Simcoe County. Delivery to Muskoka District and York Region are planned to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
“We have sufficient trucks available to do all those areas once a week, at this point,” said Woods.
The tech entrepreneur came to Barrie in 2012 to develop FreshSpoke. When COVID-19 hit, Woods saw opportunity erupt for the business.
“We were in a slow and steady pace up until COVID with the demand for local food. Statistically speaking, more than 70 per cent of Canadians will pay up to 25 per cent more for something that is produced or created locally,” said Woods. “Because of the pandemic and the absolute surge in demand for local food, we realized we had a very unique opportunity to leverage the technology we had developed to open up more sales channels for local food suppliers.”
Woods says FreshSpoke is always looking for local farmers or producers to add to their growing list.
“We have product gaps now that we’re looking to fill. There’s a lot of opportunity here now. We want to talk to more local producers, farmers and processors,” she said.
If you have a local business and you’d be interested in selling your products through FreshSpoke, or you’d like more information on becoming a driver or shopping through the site, click here.