Eating healthy is becoming more important to North American families. But for working professionals, especially parents, time for grocery shopping is shrinking. That spells opportunity for companies that deliver organic food to people’s homes.
While many regular grocery delivery businesses have had varied success, organic delivery services have grown rapidly across North America.
“People looking for specialty items not readily available elsewhere use our services,” says Ian Diamond, owner of an organic food delivery service in South Salem, New York. “A large portion of my clientele consists of families with young children.
“Two different aspects of our service attract customers: the actual delivery service for people who don’t have time to shop and the high-quality products we offer.”
According to the Organic Trade Association, organic farming is happening in about 100 countries around the world.
“Sales of organic foods and beverages have grown 20 percent to 24 percent each year over the past decade. We’re not seeing a decrease and we expect to see that growth continue,” says Barbara Haumann, senior writer for the Organic Trade Association.
“All kinds of people chose organic products, but they all have respect for the Earth, soil and fresh vegetables.”
Haumann also says that organic consumers tend to be educated with good incomes. While healthy food appeals to them, many organic consumers are too busy for extensive grocery shopping.
Consumers of organic products may be motivated by concern for children, recovery from illness or other health issues. Environmental health is also a deciding factor for many consumers who don’t agree with the use of pesticides or many synthetic food additives.
Diamond says organic produce needs special attention that many health food stores or supermarkets may not provide. “We handle produce better than many stores. Our produce comes in and goes out quickly, so there are quality benefits.”
Knowledge about specific organic products is very important for business owners, says Diamond. “What sets my company apart from my competition is my knowledge of how to handle, buy, store and present organic food. People who are successful with organic food really know what they’re doing.”
Offering a wide range of products may also contribute to success, says Diamond. Many businesses will only deliver produce, while others include meats, cheeses, breads and more.
Diamond says specialty items are a hot area. “There are still many specific gourmet foods not available in organic form,” he says.
Lisa McIntosh is the co-owner of an organic food delivery service. She sees a local market for local produce.
“I think we will always be able to provide better quality produce sourced closer to home, because larger retailers tend to buy centrally and in large volumes. This excludes the smaller farmers, and it is these smaller farmers who supply us at the local level.”
McIntosh came from a background in community economic development. She used to work with a nonprofit organization that supported food security and sustainable agriculture. Although she says she learned a lot through the day-to-day operation of her business, McIntosh also prepared herself by taking some business training.
“I took an entrepreneurship course to help with the development of an extensive business plan. My partner had previous experience as co-owner of a small business. Both of us had volunteered on organic farms and been previous customers of a similar service.”
Any food science, nutrition or related studies, says McIntosh, would help someone starting an organic delivery service. “I think it would be useful to have business management education or experience, produce handling experience, food-related education, delivery logistics, or even experience working at a fruit stand.”
In the United States, sellers of organic food can use products certified as organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Regulations set by the USDA prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge or genetically modified organisms in organic production. Organic meat and poultry must be fed 100 percent organic feed and antibiotics are not allowed.
Organic Trade Association
Learn about the industry
National Organic Program
Information from the USDA
Organic Consumers Association
Promotes organic farming