Small Bites May 12, 2021
dedicated to the VT food system supply chain creating opportunities
to sell more VT products to more buyers

Not just for Mother's Day, local flowers are an increasing category of sales at the Warren Store
Stores: Colors of the Season
Across the state stores are jumping headfirst into seasonal changes. Though we are still not back operating as we were in the "before times" it is such a joy to see stores buying from local producers & merchandising for impulse sales & providing great joy to shoppers & producers alike.
In recent years Vermont has seen an uptick in flower producers as an increasing segment in the agricultural sector. Farmland has been transferred from hay fields to flower fields. Sales are direct to consumer via a bouquet-CSA & through farmstand sales. They are also increasingly purchased by local stores for front entrance displays, add-ons for gift giving, & are often intentionally placed near wine or at the register for impulse sales.
Coops & natural food stores have long relationships with local flower producers. Independent stores are increasing deliveries direct from their local flowers farm. A beauty of local flowers is that every grower has a signature all their own. It may be based on their soil conditions, personal favorites, color schemes & the longevity of the cut flowers, all while extending the season from early spring into early winter. All these reasons make for unique bouquets from each farm. So bring a little bit of joy into your store from your local flower producers!
Bear Roots Farm in Middlesex & Allen Brothers Farm Market in Westminster are two stores with their own growing operations. Though different in their evolution, both provide shoppers with farm-fresh seasonal produce.
Allen Brothers is a full-service store with easy-on, easy-off access from 91 & is just north on Route 5 at Exit 5. The family run store has everything from a full-service prepared foods department to a full-service garden center & even gasoline. But many folks are drawn in for their fresh early asparagus, field grown spinach & bedding plants grown by their dedicated team.
Bear Roots Farm, an organic farm in Williamstown operates a farm store in Middlesex, also with easy on easy off of 89 at exit 9. They have a store focused on Vermont food producers across all categories which rounds out their exceptional produce. They have been thrilled to have great transplanting weather for the thousands of seedlings that are going in the ground. Harvest of asparagus is underway at their farm & sold in abundance.
Both stores have full grocery departments, prepared meals programs, VT great beer & wine, AND sell their own seedlings & spring bedding plants. (And both are super easy access from our two highways if you are out & about). 
The National Grocers Association, the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, now provides a SNAP Online Purchasing Toolkit. Developed to meet needs identified because of increased online sales throughout the pandemic the tool kit shows how retailers can prepare to accept SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) payments online. It is free to members of NGA or can be purchased by nonmembers.
The American Rescue Act put forth by President Biden, earmarks 25 million dollars to update the SNAP benefit program making it easier for small & rural independent stores to better serve their community through improve technology & services to help stores.
"Streamlining the process to accept SNAP for online grocery purchases will ensure that independent supermarkets are doing all they can to furnish essential goods to community members most in need." -The Shelby Report
Vermont Product Highlights

For more than 47 years the Specialty Food Association has presented sofi Awards to recognize innovation, remarkable taste & to highlight the flavors & the creativity found across the specialty food industry. Cheers to these outstanding VSFA members!
Big Picture Farm Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels - Brown Butter Bourbon
Award: Silver, Confectionery Non-Chocolate
Organic Dark Chocolate Maple Bark
Award: Gold, Chocolate Candy
Vermont Creamery Sea Salt Cultured Butter Award: Gold, 'Other Dairy'
Who knew?

From The Counter: Your favorite ice cream probably comes in a round container. But before the 1990s, it probably was packaged in square boxes. Why the switch for the sweets? According to Vice, it all comes down to much simpler and streamlined production. Boxes require assembly before they can be filled, while cylindrical cartons arrive at plants ready to go. Consumers also found that scooping was much easier coming out of a cylindrical carton than a square box, which often mucked up their knuckles as they dug in. A few companies have revived the square packaging—partly, for nostalgia—but have experienced the same production issues manufacturers had decades ago. Ice cream also melts faster in square boxes due to additional surface area. Who knew? It seems as if cylindrical cartons will remain in our freezers. Ice cream is just too cool to be square.  

Looking for some VT ice cream in cylindrical packaging? Sisters of Anarchy has expanded sales of their farm-based ingredients to stores around the state. Contact them to become an Anarchy Outlet.
#Farm24vt... check out some of the wonderful posts from the 24 hour, May 12th farm celebration social media campaign. Also available are media links & resources to use beyond #farm24 too!
Blue Ledge promoted via Neighboring Food Coop Cave to Coop ad & available through Mable
Trends & Sell-Buy Variables

Mable: "Mable brings enterprise-level wholesale ordering, marketing, & product discovery to independent grocers, emerging brands, & regional specialty food & beverage distributors." What this means is that food manufacturers have increased access to buyers that might otherwise be challenging to access while stores have an increased awareness of brands to meet their customers’ needs.
Considered a type of third-party platform, known as 3Ps, they are centered around wholesale orders, shipped from the food manufacturer, with streamlined accounting & reports. Through their platform, Mable creates an opportunity to reach new store buyers. They help emerging & well-established VT brands enhance direct contact with existing customers & in finding new ones.
Food manufacturers utilize independent distributors like Pumpkin Village, Lesser Distribution, Kathy Killam & P&S, yet they can also increase sales through online outlets. There are currently more than 80 stores in every VT nook & cranny purchasing VT products through Mable. Grown from their own need to streamline ordering & payments, while finding new products to add to their mix at Paradise Provisions in Warren, Mable was born of a distinct need.
For brands working with a distributor, it can be a challenge to get access to sales reports making it hard to know who is buying their products. Access to sales data provides necessary tools for targeted marketing & operations. Emerging brands expanding into new stores via distributors must evaluate all aspects of their business including where their products are selling.

As always, we encourage cost analysis & to do the math. There are many margin contribution variables. Having a sales &/or buying strategy is important & should be reevaluated regularly.
Unity Farm bouquets ready to be sold at Shelburne Market, which has a long history of supporting local producers
Consider This: Selling Costs

For a successful food business enterprise & a successful food system, it is important for sellers & buyers to delve into the true cost of production, distribution, & selling.

When working to expand access to stores, understand your long term business goals & the roles & costs different distribution options play. There are inherent selling costs that should be systematically explored to help make the right choices to selling your food. NOFA's wholesale report helps frame some of the cost & industry variables along with a helpful glossary.

As a new vendor, onboarding with a distributor often includes copious contract paperwork around trade-spend including promos, off invoice, product buy-back, etc. It is up to the brand to distinguish distributor variables (each is a unique business) & which can be most beneficial for market expansion. Do your homework before you sign on. Purchase order payments may not match the invoice due to contract stipulated bill-backs, chargebacks, promos etc.

Stores too need to take into consideration costs associated with distributor options. Inevitably distributors have fees that are passed on to stores. These may restocking fees for returned products, gas fees, produce handling charges, etc. These tend to not be included as costs embedded in the SRPs. Bottom line, there is always so much to learn!
Across the state independent stores & coops are increasing their sales of Vermont grown flowers. From April through November our farmers are expanding sales & bringing abundant joy to shoppers. Craftsbury General Store is just one of the many supporting local producer Morey Hill Farm. While in Roxbury Third Branch Farm produces for the regional cut flower market, florists & designers. Tanglebloom in Brookline has a farmstand selling flowers as well as custom orders for events & designers.
Farmers Take Note

Welcoming folks back on your farm? Are you interested in having a safety expert visit your farm? A team of ag service providers in the Northeast is providing personalized safety assessments that will take place either virtually or on your farm. Sign up HERE.

A reminder that prices of supplies & materials are increasing across the board due to a number of variables. Pay attention to your farm-expenses. Costs are rising on gas, resins / plastics, & lumber impacting farms costs of production & distribution.

In case you missed this last week: Do you have a CSA with add-on products or do you have a farm store? Trent's Bakery wants to hear from you. They love selling to seasonal farm outlets!
This is what a field of 4000 just-planted dahlia bulbs looks like! Understory Farm in Bridport, formerly a dairy farm is now home to thousands upon thousands of cut flowers for the expanding retail & specialty cut flower market selling throughout the western Champlain Valley.
Ode to joy: Ice House Farm are makers of premium kefir, chevre, curds, great goat swag, clothing & of course happy goats. Products are becoming more widely available as they seek to analyze & assess new distribution options. Look for their products to land in every corner of the state soon!