Supply chain timeline is main challenge

Fresh salads available in vending machines

Fresh salads, snacks and meals right out of the fridge. Farmer’s Fridge has changed the idea of getting food from a vending machine. While covering sales territory in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, CEO and founder of Farmer’s Fridge, Luke Saunders began thinking about how he could make fresh delicious foods more available to people. The problem lays in the supply chain timeline he says. “In order to do a restaurant quality meal it would be necessary to get it to the customer on the same day.”

The Farmer’s Fridge business model is to make food – cutting the produce by hand, making the dressings from scratch and cutting avocados right on the line and get them to customers as soon as possible as well as leveraging technology to make it convenient. Four years ago there was only one fridge in a food court in downtown Chicago. “I was picking up the produce in my car,” he says. 

Greek salad is best seller
The menu is consumer-driven but with a chef-curated philosophy. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options are available in each fridge. “We only put things in the fridge we thought we could do really well,” Saunders says. There are newer items like the meal-based line that includes burrito bowls, wholegrain pastas and vegetables. The newly launched Greek salad is their best seller.

Processing is the differentiator
Seasonal produce is sourced from Chicago distributors. The company has reached a point where it can forecast enough to do some contract purchasing with items like romaine lettuce. “What differentiates us where it’s more of a commodity produce item is how we process it: we’re hand- cutting the romaine on the line before it’s packed into the salad. We get whole ingredients and process them right before we assemble the product. It makes it much more fresh for the consumer.”

Every fridge is stocked a minimum five days a week. By launching an app to the public, it allows users to check inventory, see what’s on the menu and at which locations it’s available. Rewards are also offered. Customer feedback indicated that the top two things users wanted were inventory (seeing what’s available) and rewards. Plus, Saunders says more people are engaged with the app than on any of their other social media or online channels. Customers can tag themselves at the fridge and earn rewards. There is also a jar return at every fridge.

Six weeks ago the company expanded to Milwaukee, its first test outside of the Chicago region. 

For more information:
Luke Saunders
Farmer’s Fridge
Tel: 312.229.0099

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