"In the case of indoor farming, FreshDirect, as an online grocer, has the advantage of already working with short supply chains, which fits nicely into CEA principles. Currently, the typical produce chain involves growing food, sending it to a warehouse, then to another warehouse in another country, and finally to the grocer. We connect right to the source and have direct conversations with growers," explains Scott Crawford, Chief Merchandising Officer with FreshDirect.
FreshDirect is an online grocer based in New York, offering customers virtually every commodity category available in typical supermarkets. FreshDirect delivers to customers throughout the New York Tri-State area. Its state-of-the-art facility in the Bronx spans 640,000 square feet, employs 3,000 people, and coordinates its orders using 9 miles of conveyor belts and smart routing technologies. Already offering field-grown produce to its consumers, FreshDirect is eager to partner with indoor farmers to provide consumers with locally grown, fresh and nutritious food.
"Produce goes from the grower to us then to consumers. We've taken out multiple steps, which is critical for perishable products. We want to correct the supply chain and deliver at peak maturity to have the most flavorful products," says Scott.
Result of search 'microgreens'
Educated consumers and robust forecasting are key to CEA's success
According to Scott, According to Scott, FreshDirect's customers come to the company in search of high-quality groceries and expect consistent, fresh products. While FreshDirect doesn't currently have enough CEA products to have a category dedicated to these products, Scott notes that the company has seen a spike in the number of searches for CEA products on the website.
"We deal with a high number of educated customers who look beyond the images. CEA brands are adding more details to the packaging, and consumers are picking up these details. Suddenly, CEA products are becoming the top search on our website," Scott notes.
Photo credits: Cindy Ord/Getty Image
In addition to having customers who care deeply about quality, FreshDirect's success is also rooted in its advanced forecasting processes. As Scott explains, FreshDirect can monitor shopping trends over the course of a week, for example, and see when consumers are more likely to add items to their baskets, remove items and place an order. The information pulled from this forecasting can be used to help vendors and growers plan their production cycles. Advanced forecasting also has positive implications for preventing food waste by making it easier to match supply to demand.
"The consistency is there, the ability to change and forecast supply is there, and the flavor is there. There are many big wins with CEA, and we are looking forward to seeing where it goes," says Scott.
FreshDirect celebrating 20 years
Established in 2002, FreshDirect is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and commemorated the milestone in June and July with "20 Days of Giveaways" for its customers, a celebration for employees and their families, and another giveaway for employees, among other summer-long promotional events. The full press release can be found here.
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Scott Crawford, Chief Merchandising Officer