Consumers are hungry for fresh food — something Big Food conveniently doesn’t stock.
What’s happening: Foraged, a digital marketplace for wild and specialty foods, secured $2.7M in a seed round led by Bessemer Venture Partners.
Founded in 2021 to combat high prices and expand distribution for small-scale mushroom foragers, Foraged connects independent producers and farmers—from organic eggs to dive-to-order seafood—with consumers.
A self-proclaimed antagonist to Big Food, Foraged has served “tens of thousands” customers, and the platform’s number of repeat shoppers has recently increased over 1,000%.
While ultra-processed foods dominate the standard American diet, more consumers are seeking out healthier alternatives — even if it costs more.
Of note, US sales of organic produce topped $60B for the first time in 2022, even in the face of record inflation.
This includes the burgeoning interest in mushrooms. With the market expected to reach $127B by 2030, everyone from alt-meat producers Fable Food and Meati Foods to beverage makers MUD\WTR and Four Sigmatic is touting their holistic benefits.
Waste not, want not. But, outside a local farmers market, the economics don’t add up for small-scale producers of things like mushrooms, honey, and small-lot produce.
And worse, despite the rise of regenerative agriculture, the US food system incentivizes megafarms and wholesale distribution that invites in contaminants, degrades nutrient density, and leads to a significant amount of wasted food — up to 40% of Americas food supply ($408B annually) never makes it into our stomachs.
Attempting to pick up the pieces, Too Good to Go operates a DTC marketplace for restaurants and groceries stores to sell surplus produce, and the merger of Misfits Market/Imperfect Foods created a nationwide delivery service for “ugly” produce that might otherwise be thrown out.
Backing the basics. A societal problem, the American food system is broken all the way to the source. But efforts to support healthier production, while fledgling, look promising.
- Validating a number of efforts to take food as medicine mainstream, in February, the Biden Administration okayed the use of Medicaid funds for fresh food and nutritionists.
- Bringing together community and the benefits of gardening, “agrihoods” are springing up across the US, with long waiting lists for self-sufficient, commune-style living.
- Overseas, Germany’s Ingarden seeks to replace dietary supplements with homegrown microgreen production, and Australia’s Invest Inya Farmer puts early-season capital in the hands of farmers in exchange for a proportionate share of the harvest.
Big picture: For small businesses who focus on healthy food, competing with conglomerates makes platforms like Foraged necessary. A bigger shift, with better food clearly linked to better health, communities would benefit from supporting “honest work” — buying from a butcher, a beekeeper, and more local farmers over big-box grocers.