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Why food is the next frontier for the sharing economy

25th June 2014

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These days we’re all sharing more than ever before – social media has seen to that. Whether via Twitter, blogging, Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr, we’re now not only showing our friends and family what we’re up to but also reaching out to ever-broader audiences in order to inspire and be inspired, to seek out like-minded types to follow and to compare notes, statistics and ideas. Wondering how to rock a midi skirt this season? Looking for ways to recycle a wooden pallet? How would you use sea purslane? Forget phoning a friend or rifling through a stack of magazines and books – social media has, it seems, all the answers.

Not only is technology helping to redefine the way we share and exchange ideas, but it’s also playing an increasingly large role in how we acquire and use products. Online grocery shopping may have heralded the beginnings but that’s only part of the story: with the UK’s biggest supermarkets reporting unprecedented losses – current industry figures show Tesco and Morrisons recording a fall not only in market share but also in actual sales* – and new players in the field making huge profit leaps – Morrisons, for example has gone from zero to £250m profit in a mere 5 years – it seems obvious that the time is ripe for newly imagined retail models to prosper.

Having analysed food retail businesses for over a decade, one of our founders Ben Pugh saw this firsthand. Observing the complex layers (and accompanying margins) of our modern food system got him thinking –  if we sat down to design a food supply chain on a blank piece of paper today, it wouldn’t look anything like what we’ve currently got. And his plans for a better way of buying and selling food started to percolate. 

And as the growing numbers of community gardens, urban growing schemes and community supported food groups testify, more and more people are increasingly in agreement, citing concerns about traceability, climate change, waste and economy, to name a few.

At the heart of the sharing economy, in so far as it relates to what we eat, is the desire to harness modern, cutting edge technology and combine it with a return to good old-fashioned values and a ‘simpler’ way of life – where people are part of communities, in touch with the food that they eat and the producers who grow and make it. It’s about accessibility, it’s about support and, at a fundamental level, it’s about what tastes better!

In a world where, pre-supermarkets, farmers and food producers pocketed around 50% of total UK food sales and now walk away with only around 11%, we firmly believe FarmDrop can represent a real opportunity to make a difference – and if the weakening grip that the big supermarkets have on our spending habits are anything to go by, there’s never been a better time for that difference to take shape.

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