One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the growth of the local food revolution is that it's not equally accessible to everyone (unless you grow your own food, which is arguably a bit more equal opportunity). Buying fresh, healthy produce is actually quite a challenge, even for those who can afford the often-but-not-always higher prices of local food. Farmers markets are usually held during the day when most people are at work, and inconvenient CSA pickups with their typical crapshoot variety and quantity of produce scares off many people.
If two people are working full-time in a household, it can be a real challenge to get food outside of an (often overpriced) health-oriented supermarket, and while some of the products in such a market will be local, many of them might be "healthy," but from halfway around the world (and we know that shipping stuff uses plenty of nonrenewable fossil fuels, which only exacerbates global warming and disenfranchises local growers). It's a real conundrum for people who care about food.
Good Eggs is out to change that frustrating narrative. About two years ago, Rob Spiro, co-founder and CEO of the company, got together with some friends to make healthy local food more easily available. "We started as a mission-driven company, and that mission was to grow sustainable food systems worldwide. We want to help local food systems to grow," he said.
How? Good Eggs is doing it through a food-delivery system (and some very fancy backend software, we'd have to guess). If you've ever used a grocery-delivery platform, like FreshDirect or PeaPod, you know how it works; you scroll through a site, choose what you like, and it gets delivered at a future time. But at Good Eggs, everything you order is secured through local food purveyors. We're talking farmers, of course, but also bakers, ranchers, pickle- and jam-makers, apiarists, and even flower-growers.
It has to be super-pricy, right? Not really. In fact, the company made sure that it was offering items at prices as affordable as possible. The only difference between Good Eggs and others is that you will have to wait a bit longer for your local food, since it's not already sitting in a warehouse, but coming directly from the people who make it or grow it. That has an upside.
Spiro says, "The produce is higher quality than you'll find in any supermarket; that's what's really great. But prices are really competitive too, since we are buying direct from producers. It definitely costs less than what you pay at Whole Foods."
The company launched in San Francisco, where it was pretty much an immediate success, depending on word of mouth for publicity. Next the company moved to New York City (operating out of Brooklyn), and the team currently has pilot programs in Los Angeles and New Orleans, both of which are going well. Why these cities? Well, Good Eggs' goal is to expand to hundreds of U.S. cities, and the founders chose their first few to be as diverse as possible, so they could work out as many logistical kinks as possible right at the beginning. This is not like franchising a chain restaurant — built into the DNA of the company is the fact that each locale has its own foodshed, unique products, tastes and preferences.
"There's so much that's different from city to city," says Spiro. "There's a totally unique supply chain [for each area], so you find that there's lots of nuances to pickup and delivery, as well as product selection. We have a big team on the ground in each city, and it's important to adapt the model to their city on a daily and weekly basis."
So they chose a dense city (NYC), a car-dependent city with terrible traffic (LA), a city with mixed incomes (New Orleans) so that this local food experiment isn't just about, "working in coastal, high-income markets," says Spiro. And naturally they started in cities that had a strong existing food culture, since the idea would be more easily understood. New Orleans, in particular, has been incredibly supportive, said Spiro.
The company has ensured plenty of local knowledge by hiring employees and team leaders who are from the areas they serve, instead of the typical practice of bringing in their own people from outside. Again, knowing the local landscape is a top priority.
Good Eggs chooses partners — the bakers, farmers, fisherpeople, etc. — based on specific, published criteria (including ratings and research from organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium), and while many of the company's products would be considered organic by most people in the healthy food community, they aren't necessarily certified by a third party.
With the passionate founding team behind the company (all of whom care deeply about food and have either worked on farms or have cooking backgrounds), the company's early success isn't surprising — these are people doing what they love and improving the world in the way they know how. Spiro sums up the company's ideals when he explains, "There are so many benefits to sustainable agriculture, and there's so much support around it. It's more than food, it's also about building local communities, and empowering consumer culture."