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Saturday 21 May 2022

Eat NZ Food Hui: ‘Early adopter’ Roebuck Farm champions local supermarket supply

9th May 2022 By Staff Reporter | | @foodtickernz

Taranaki bio-intensive market garden Roebuck Farm says it is an early adopter of local supermarket supply and is advocating for more of it to be established around New Zealand.

Jodi Roebuck

Co-owner and founder Jodi Roebuck said when New Zealand went into the first lockdown in 2020 and the regenerative farm’s traditional sales channels closed, the business was left with no option but to start supplying the local Pak’nSave in New Plymouth.

Speaking at the Eat NZ Food Hui last week, he said that despite his misgivings it has been of huge benefit to the business and demonstrated that it was possible for a small-scale grower to successfully partner with a supermarket.

“We thought we needed to be larger scale with more people and big greenhouses, but the reality is we didn’t,” Roebuck said.

“We’ve been at Pak’nSave for two years now and with the same land area and for us that is achieved by growing fast crops.”

Roebuck Farm is 10 acres but its valley floor location is only 1.5 acres, and he grows vegetables in 10-metre beds which are planted at least four times a year. Crops include microgreens and baby leaf salads, as well as other vegetables, and it is all done with small tools – no tractors, no tillage.

Roebuck said there had been numerous benefits to the business such as reduced food miles, and it also myth-busted some market misgivings.

“One of the positives is everything we grow goes 10 minutes away – there are no food miles,” he said, adding that the farm now supplies a number of other retailers as well as the Foodstuffs banner.

“I’m delivering $1,000 of product an hour so I am only on the road twice a week for 2.5 hours return and I am going to ten different retail spaces so it is quite different to what you usually see in the supermarket.”

Its supply agreement saw the business use its own branded fridges – Roebuck himself stocked and rotated everything – and they employed a sale or return model rather than the supermarket buying off them.

“They photograph our fridge every morning and send it to me so I know exactly what is going on. We have created no-risk for our outlets – we take the risk [via the sale or return model] and we manage that zero waste with optionality,” Roeback said.

“We only move forward with things if we have got options, for example, we do salad mix instead of single items and if we do have returns because we have got multiple outlets I can manage that across stores.

“Another advantage is shelf life because we are same day harvest and delivery – large food aggregators can’t compete with that – and our product sells itself through taste quality and shelf life – our salads are good for two weeks.”

Roebuck was now coaching other small-scale growers to move into retail.

“It was a little confronting for other small growers when we went into the supermarket – we were cautioned and told to be careful,” he said

“We’re super proud to be in the retail space and in the supermarket and we know we are making big change being an early adopter, so we are coaching other small growers to go into the supermarket space as well.

“We would love to see more local food produced in supermarkets as close as possible – it is totally doable.”



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