In August, San Francisco-based vertical farm Plenty announced that its products will be sold in 430 Albertson’s stores in the U.S. According to Plenty CEO Matt Barnard, the company’s deal with Albertson’s stemmed from Plenty’s ability to deliver product amid the pandemic. “Through all of that, we continued to deliver week-to-week and increasing our weekly shipments by three times and still delivering with around a 99% fulfillment rate,” he says. “That really highlighted the power of our farms.”
Produce Grower: How did the deal with Albertson’s come about?
Matt Barnard: We had been building our presence in retail. We first entered the grocery market back in 2018 and then in 2019, we set about building that presence. And Albertson’s execs came out for a farm visit and a taste earlier this year. During the farm tour, they were blown away and we started working to get us on their shelves quickly. We were on the shelves in some stores in a matter of weeks and it started flying off of their shelves in a category lead. And shortly after, COVID hit and the power, speed and resilience of our platform and our farm really shined through as there were extreme demand surges and food chain shocks.
PG: What does the opportunity for an in-person visit offer that a Zoom call cannot?
MB: It really does matter. When someone hears about our farm, it can be interesting [to them]. But when they show up at our farm, I think it’s breathtaking. And you see all of the growing, thriving lettuce. You can smell it. And once you taste the plants we’re growing, it’s unusual and uncommon and flavorful that people are taken [by the farm]. Any skepticism tends to melt away
PG: How are the details of the deal hashed out?
MB: It’s all about how far people want to go in each stage, as well as the constraints of their footprints and the service radius of our farms. Take Albertson’s, for example. They have their California footprint, and we have our farm where we prefer to keep our service radius as low as we can because we very much prefer a local and even hyperlocal model. So when you toss that all into a tumbler and it all shakes out, we’re targeting over 400 locations in California to start off with. They have a national footprint beyond that, but our first step is our Compton farm and serving California from there. ... The Los Angeles market is extremely important because of the way the Los Angeles community generally has shown that leafy greens are a big part of their diet.