farewell to Traderspoint products

By Posted in - Uncategorized on October 22nd, 2010 0 Comments

We got the news a few weeks ago that our distributor was going to stop carrying Traderspoint Creamery milk and yogurt, and we’ve decided to stop carrying it ourselves instead of switching to another distributor. This wasn’t a simple decision to make – and since the “Open” in our name means being open with our customers and connecting you to your food, here’s a little insight into that decision.

We got Traderspoint milk and yogurt, and briefly carried some of their fromage blanc and cottage cheese, through a distributor called Natural Direct, based in Oswego, IL. We order through about a dozen distributors, all of which have some sort of speciality. Natural Direct focuses on small, family-owned, local producers, usually of certified organic but always of responsibly-made products. You may recognize Local Folks Foods, Upton’s seitan, and Black Earths meat products on our shelves; all of these come to us through Natural Direct.

Distributors are essential for small producers to get their product into the market. Natural Direct picks up products from independent farms or kitchens, then markets them to other retail locations in the region. Without Natural Direct, Kilgus milk would never leave Fairbury, IL, where the Kilgus’ farm is, and Otter Creek cheddar cheese would age for years in the cheese cellars of Black Earth, WI.

Many of these producers are small enough, often just a family or a partnership of a handful of friends, that they distribute exclusively through one distributor. A business like Traderspoint Creamery, however, markets and distributes nationwide through many different distributors. We can say from experience here at Open Produce that it is much simpler and time-efficient to use less distributors. For us, however, this would sacrifice our essential diversity of products. There is no way one distributor could bring us Marukome Ryotei miso soup from Japan, fresh corn tortillas from El Milagro in Pilsen, as well as Local Folks Food salsa from Sheridan, Indiana.

Perhaps for simplicity’s sake, Traderspoint recently left Natural Direct to distribute through a Chicago-based large regional distributor called Goodness Greenness. (They also distribute through UNFI, an even larger distributor that places customers in price tiers and means us buying from them is much too expensive.) Founded in 1991 as a family-run supplier of organic produce, Goodness Greenness distributes from Iowa to Pennsylvania, and since they have long supplied Whole Foods, you could say they’re largely responsible for the success of the organic food movement.

They are much bigger than Natural Direct, which allows for a greater inventory but also comes with sacrifice. We have a personal relationship with Sid, our representative from Natural Direct, that we do not want to give up. As another small, independent business, we recognize the importance of building relationships with customers, because they become valuable to the success of the business. But they’re also friends. We can call Sid with questions about products at any time, and he’ll gladly swing by the store and drop off samples of new delicious products he thinks we should carry. As a small store, we are often unable to sell entire cases of pricier items, and Sid recognizes this and will split cases for us. If we aren’t able to sell a new kind of cheese before it expires, he’ll readily replace it with another in the hopes that it will catch on next time. Personal relationships between businesses, distributors, and producers mean everyone gets what they want and need to succeed, and happily. Goodness Greenness is too big to provide this personal attention.

You come to Open Produce for a more personal shopping experience, and that comes from more personal relationships with the products we carry. We have worked hard to make the right decisions and bring good food to the store, and we’re excited about the new products we’ll be getting from Sid, as well as our other distributors. Let us know what you think!

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