Aggregation and Distribution

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Aggregation and Distribution Working Group Updates

The Aggregation and Distribution Working Group’s primary focus has been on Independent Grocers, and a Wholesale Study Report with NOFA-VT and Rose Wilson. The Wholesale Study included a producer focus group, interviews with distributors and buyers, information from industry events, input collected from Working Group members, and regular advisory group calls throughout the year. The final report will be available November 2019, with a presentation at a breakout session at the Annual Gathering. A set of recommendations will be informative for the next steps of the working group and the Network as a whole.

We are rapidly shifting wholesale distribution, especially how it impacts producers and their business planning, and the relationship with the high cost of transportation, especially throughout rural Vermont. The Vermont Food Hub Collaborative is also looking at how to support more Vermont producers by increasing marketing of Vermont food. The Food Hub Collaborative can help with rural transportation issues by getting more product on everyone’s vehicles.

We are continuing support to independent retailers to make local food a bigger part of what they do, improving distributor relationships, and helping producers better understand the retail marketplace through trainings and events. The group is also putting a lot of attention to market development through domestic export as well as bigger picture support of marketing efforts. We are looking at the Taste the Local Difference marketing model based in Michigan. Partnership with the Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group and others is important to moving market development forward, and poses important questions as to how the Network is structured to effectively deal with market development efforts.

- Richard Berkfield & Theresa Snow, Group Chairs


The Independent Retail Grocer Project is based on expansion of Vermont products sold through retail food stores through three primary areas: store support, increased relationships with distributors to increase availability of Vermont products, and the creation of events that bring together buyers and sellers. There are in-store staff trainings, work with distributer relationships, and events such as the Producer Buyer Distributer Forum, Retail Seminars, and Retailing for Farmers. The entire local food system requires connections between growers, food manufacturers, buyers, sellers, brokers and distributors as each places a key role in the expansion and vitality of our food economy. Expansion of Vermont products in independent stores requires producers and sellers to become aware of the systemic pressures that are intrinsic to the food system. Continuing support services with distributors in a time of disruption takes patience and initiative.

•Increased consolidation of distributors and the potential impact to producers; long established independent retail store owners are retiring by selling to Associate Grocers of New England, a large, regional cooperatively owned distributor based in New Hampshire with limited Vermont products.

•The small distributors and food hubs often compete with lower pricing from large distributors.

•A system of rebates and discounts pressure stores to reduce Vermont product presence in favor of accessing the global food supply to capture dollars that go directly to their bottom line.

•Farm to Plate Retail Services acts an ambassador supporting the local food system.

-Annie Harlow, Farm to Plate Retail Services