When I think about small-scale, responsible food production these days, I picture a river flowing with greater and greater momentum by the day. More and more people are talking about artisanal, traditional food ways, food made by hand, meat raised outside of the industrial farm system, and jars/boxes/bags of food packaged in a kitchen instead of a factory. Here at Bi-Rite, we’re lucky enough to be riding the river’s current every day!
One thing’s for sure: succeeding with a small food business, especially, a new one, is not easy. So the big question I ask our team at Bi-Rite is how we can best support this growing deluge. Here are some ways we’ve played a part so far:
- Partnering with organizations in our own city that are making it possible to start small, sustainable food businesses. The amazing resources that La Cocina provides to entrepreneurial food makers who operate out of their incubator kitchen has inspired us for years and led us to join them in their fundraising and events. What’s exciting is that their work is getting mainstream exposure, and the kind of small-scale, traditional food production they foster is now poised to influence larger food corporations. At this year’s NASFT Fancy Foods Show at the Moscone Center, La Cocina had its own area to showcase their products; clearly, retailers across the country are increasingly interested in selling packaged food that feels homemade and supports a greater mission.
- Selling products with a purpose here at Bi-Rite. Whether it’s Tracy’s Granola whose profits support an urban gleaning organization, Project Open Hand Peanut Butter which donates proceeds to their meal and nutrition services, or the many coffees we sell from local roasters who source fair trade beans, many retailers these days are considering the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) when choosing what product to sell.
- Being transparent about how we as retailers choose what products we sell and what makes a product successful in our store. Our grocery buyer Alli Ball was recently interviewed for CHOW about her tips for small aspiring food businesses; we’re always up for sharing our systems and learnings with others.
- Recognizing the people working hard to do it right. The two year old Good Food Awards celebrate outstanding American food producers and the farmers who provide their ingredients; I’ve served as a judge and advisor in the startup years and think the influence of this organization could be huge.
And this brings me to my next bend in this gushing river of support for small food businesses: I was recently asked to judge the Next Big Small Brand contest! Self-described as “a friendly food fight between San Francisco and New York”, myself and a small group of judges will review submissions from both coasts (up until now it’s only been New York—let’s show ‘em who’s boss!), and anoint one grand prize winner as The Next Big Small Brand. This Sunday, February 5th is the last day to submit your favorite small food brand to the contest; don’t miss this chance for us all to celebrate a small food producer bringing an exciting product to market! And if you’ll be in New York on March 27th, join us for the live judging!