Monday, July 23, 2012

Durham's Mint Market Offers Chefs and Farmers Thoughtful Online Solution

Dining in Durham is a great object lesson in the synergy between supply and demand in both a literal and tangible way. It also happens to be outrageously tasty. Chefs want local food and farmers want to move their product to people who will treat it with care - many would prefer to move that product the shortest distance possible.

Mint Market is a new Durham start up serving as an online marketplace for local food. As of Sunday, July 29 chefs and farmers can start saving a lot of time and get back to doing what they do best.

The new website will allow chefs in the Triangle to discover, purchase, and schedule delivery of food directly from area farms. Farmers must sign up by Saturday, July 28 to have their products included on opening day.

“We’ve been testing Mint Market with amazing local chefs and farmers. Now we’re ready to open the floodgates,” said Ricky Spero, Mint Market’s founder. “We can’t wait to see what they do with this powerful new tool.” Mint Market will showcase some of the area’s finest local vendors, including Maple View Farm, Hillsborough Cheese Co., and Dock to Door Seafood. 

The scheduling of this process is crucial for chefs and farmers alike. It allows them both to focus on the critical aspects of buying and selling. Balancing the two is no easy feat, and Mint Market gives farmers an efficient way to sell their products to restaurants using e-commerce. Farmers update their inventories on Saturday. Chefs shop on Sunday. Farmers harvest on Monday and deliver to restaurants on Tuesday. Listing products on Mint Market is free. When farmers complete a sale, Mint Market takes a 5% fee.

Spero sees a time when Mint Market will be available to retail consumers, but for now he's very much focused on the commercial aspect of this enterprise. "We think that the consumer market for  local food is really exciting, but right now we're 100% focused on getting wholesale right," he added.

Scott Howell, chef-owner of Nana’s Restaurant in Durham, was Mint Market’s first customer. “This is something the area really needs. From our earliest days, Nana’s has supported local farms. Mint Market is going to make that much easier.”

“Mint Market solves so many problems,” adds Sam Hummel, co-owner of Ever Laughter Farm in Hillsborough. “We love working with chefs, but everyone has to spend a lot of time on the phone. Mint Market makes it more likely that we’ll be able to connect with the right chef at the right time.”

Spero is clear about the role that Mint Market aims to play. “We love food, but we’re a technology company at our core. We ask ourselves how we think people will buy food five years from now. And then we build it, so everyone can start doing it today.”

Amanda Miller, owner of Dock to Door Seafood, aims to shift her existing business onto Mint Market’s platform. Said Miller, “We drive fish directly from the coast to chefs’ kitchens, so we have a very tight timeline. Mint Market can handle all of our ordering and logistics. It’s hard to imagine how we could scale without this.”

Noah Ranells, co-owner of Fickle Creek Farm and Agricultural Economic Development Coordinator for Orange County, said, "Mint Market is an elegant solution that makes the most of the busy schedules that farmers and chefs experience on a daily basis. I think that it will appeal to a growing number of farms in Orange County and the Piedmont Region." Ranells is also on the board of Piedmont Grown.

Aaron Benjamin, chef at Rue Cler Restaurant, used Mint Market during the testing phase. “I like the ease and usability of the website and I will definitely order more product as it becomes available.”

Those visiting the website are encouraged to sign up to learn more as the service rolls out. Spero will be updating people as news unfolds.

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