How to build a successful Food Hub

The Stroudco team is reviewing its marketing plan and welcomes ideas from other Food Hubs about what works and what doesn’t :slight_smile:

We produced this review document which covers some of our earlier experience.

These are some of the questions we would like to hear answers on:

  1. How do you encourage more regular orders?

  2. How do you increase order sizes?

  3. How do you build collaboration with other local food enterprises such as farmers’ markets, local shops, etc so that they work with you rather than seeing you as competition?

I will invite other Stroudco people to add to this topic and we would love to hear from anyone who is interested in sharing ideas on these and similar questions.


One thing we are just starting to do here is to create what we call ‘satellites’ - or some are calling these ‘daughter hubs’ of ‘mother hubs’ (as in Mother Hubbard) :slight_smile: This is basically just a setup of a distributor attached to a hub - but we play up that they get their own branding, select their own products. Because they are attached to a mother hub (where the product gets dropped off) - these daughter hubs don’t reqire minimums and they don’t need a big space… So we’ve got interest from schools, worksites, churches, university buildings… Its not new, but it can be marketed in a new way - it seems the branding is important to them - ie: "The Optometry Building’s Food Hub’ (when really its a pick-up spot.) We build in a $5 per order fee for someone to go to the mother hub, pack and deliver. Lots of students want that money. I raise this because the main hub sees this as expansion potential. In the current case, the main hub usually adds a 30% admin fee. But for satellites, they drop the fee a bit to 25% - and the satellite doesn’t see this as a business, so they don’t add a fee. For them its a service to their employees…

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Thinking more on our questions @NickWeir - re: How do you build collaboration with other local food enterprises such as farmers’ markets, local shops, etc so that they work with you rather than seeing you as competition?

I’m finding the bigger issue is how to structure things so that different enterprises using OFN don’t see each other as competition. Because - in my view, the real power of OFN is that once on-line product catalogues are created, any enterprise can draw on them (with permissions). This requires a cooperative ethic between food hubs - but I have found many want to keep their supplier lists proprietary. I haven’t come across enterprises that see OFN-Canada as competition - trying to understand why that would be? Is this because in the UK you also run an on-line hub (so you are both a user and a host?) . If thats the case maybe sharing your learning/expertise as a hub with them would help?

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Thanks @tschumilas I love your Mother Hubbard idea. [quote=“tschumilas, post:2, topic:1070”]
mother hubs
[/quote] @Oliver could we find someone in Nailsworth who could have a distribution deal with Stroudco - pick up all the Nailsworth boxes from the food drop and host a pick up point in Nailsworth?

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…it is not that OFN UK is seen as competition - the problem is that the offline farmers market has been seeing Stroudco (the OFN hub) as competition for the last 10 years. We are now in negotiation with the farmers market manager to build a collaboration between the 2 - but it has taken 10 years to get there! I was wondering if anyone had a quicker plan :slight_smile:

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ah yes - I see now. Is the idea of supplementing the face-to-face market with an on-line (OFN hosted) farmers’ market of interest to them? I wanted to make this ‘pitch’ to farmers’ markets here this year but didn’t get to it. People shop at face-to-face markets for lots of reasons, and most will still do it. BUT, I know a lot of older people who shopped at markets their whole lives, but now are finding it harder and harder to negotiate parking, crowds, weather… So - I wondered if a market manager would offer their vendors the option of an on-line market. They could charge a $5/bag fee to compile the orders at the opening of markets. Its like a personal market shopper. As a farmer, I’d be thrilled - anything sold before market is a delight - and less I need to bring home. The market could do it as a small fundraiser. Dooes anyone do this with OFN now?

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@NickWeir We’ve had this discussion a few times. It sounds like a good idea if we can find someone to do it. They’d need to be quite accommodating, have a fridge and freezer available with plenty spare space and be happy to split each order into chilled/frozen/normal and then recombine them when a customer arrives. Either that or people would have to collect within a one hour collection window, in which case the boxes would probably be ok in ambient temperature. But that was in the context of having that place or person as a delivery option with no branding for them.

@tschumilas How do you set this up in OFN? I assume you give that daughter hub its own shopfront but it uses the same OC? So the daughter hub is added to the outgoing part of the OC?

I’ve only done this in a mock-up- nothing ended up going ‘live’ this past season.
The farmers market manager (or a designated producer perhaps) canvases their market suppliers to ask who wants to offer their products on-line as well as at the ‘terrestrial’ market. These producers agree to create product lists (added bonus of course is they can also easily set up on-line farm shops independent of the market). The market manager (or a designate) is the OC coordinator. And the market is the outgoing distributor - and I suggested a $5 ‘delivery’ fee be added in outgoing. (or they could do a mark-up percentage like other hubs I imagine too. But I thought shoppers should see that the on-line prices and the prices at the physical vender stalls are the same, so they are clear they are paying for the shopping/packing service, not paying more to the vendors.)

Further on this - I’ve met with an enterprise in Toronto whose business is to offer a ‘farmers’ market shopping’ service. They pull together a list of farmers market products (like an OC - but they aren’t currently using OFN) from different markets in the Toronto area, and then take orders, go to the markets and shop, and deliver.

…or a daughter hub with its own order cycle so that you can leave out the chilled and frozen items if the daughter cannot store them

I’m just mulling this over.
But a single OC is easier to manage and you could leave cold and frozen things off the outgoing part, i.e that particular distributor. So the same OC could serve a Farmers Market shop front, Nailsworth hub etc?

OK actually it could be fiddly to take things out of the outgoing parts but if we have more than one OC suppliers get multiple purchase order emails.

the farmers’ market wouldn’t need to be a daughter hub (distributor) - the market would be its own coordinator, with one OC that pulls in products (or just some products - like not things that need cooling/freezing) from whatever farmers are interested. Then the market is its own distributor (or could set up several if there are different pick up spots at the market).

We’ve done this quite a lot in Aus, works great :slight_smile: I’ve had up to 15 ‘daughters’ (we called them ‘nubs’) operating off the same hub

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Hi Nick, before I reply with our strategy here in Aus just want to get a better idea of the UK context. Are the farmers markets you are seen to be 'competing 'against for real farmers? or they as we call them here in oz onsellers that make out they are farmers. We have a real problem with them here (except for Victoria) and we have used that as our common rallying point.

Hi @robert they are mostly real farmers with one or two onsellers. The main resistance we have had is from the market managers who see the online food hubs as competition.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Ah ha, yes understand Nick

We are going around the operators/managers as most of the ‘farmers markets’ up here are filled with on sellers and the farmers get pushed out.
We are forming pacts with farmers to on sell our family of farmers produce so they can compete whilst they build up their capacity to grow more as well as sell through us.

Farmers markets are at the most a five year strategy as they are just too time consuming and are on the weekends so not great for farmers family time etc.

Talk soon


Robert Pekin
Executive Director
Food Connect Foundation

"Putting the Culture back into Agriculture”

tel: +61 7 3216 7777
mob: +61 404 777 491
skype: robert.pekin

Associative roles;
Founding Director - Food Connect
Founding Member - Slow Money Foundation
Director - Open Food Foundation
Co-founder - Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
Co-founder - Australian Food Hubs Network
Founding Board Member - ORICoop (Organic Regenerative Investment Cooperative)

Food Connect and it’s network of farmers in our bioregion, wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians, past and present, of the Aboriginal Nations of South East Queensland, namely the Turrbal (‘Turrbal’, ‘Turrubul’ and ‘Jagara’), Ugandi people of the Bundgalung nation and the Jinibara (‘Jinibara’, ‘Dalla’ and ‘Dungidjau’). We respect their wisdom and farming methods which have provided shelter, food and a rich culture for thousands of generations.

There is an interesting guide here