Purchasing and sourcing activity among the fifty-three participants in this study implies that, within 50 miles of Bangor, at least 70 percent of the potential market for Maine-grown food and ingredients is unmet. Among study participants alone this conservatively equates to $5,000,000 of annual opportunity or an average of approximately $94,000 per week.
While the overall level of unsatisfied demand among institutional and other food service entities is significant, purchasing behavior is in the form of relatively small weekly amounts per entity. Individual institutional buyers project increased procurement in weekly purchases of 100 pounds or less in most categories. These small volumes, spread over many potential customers, represent logistical challenges for managing and meeting orders that contributes to higher distribution costs for centralized suppliers.
A scalable, decentralized model – such as might be achieved through a system of farm-based aggregators – is the kind of system that would better respond to this demand.
Analysis showed that at least 30 percent of buyers across all market segments are unaware of their currently available options for accessing Maine-grown food and ingredients: they do not know where or how to initiate a direct buy relationship with farmers. They are unaware of how to work with their current distributors to purchase Maine-grown items from an order list. Buyers do not know how to initiate and manage a direct-buying relationship with farmers, farmer-aggregators, and food hubs but wish to do so.
Detailed findings of purchasing in specific market segments are included in the project’s final report.