Nick Carter accepting Scale-up of the Year at the 2022 TechPoint Mira Awards. (photo courtesy of TechPoint)

The chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Market Wagon says the online farmers market platform was bolstered by the pandemic as farmers and local food producers scrambled to find new ways to get their products to consumers. The company this week marked $10 million in cumulative sales for producers in central Indiana and won the TechPoint Mira Award for Scale-up of the Year. Nick Carter says the milestones are validation for Market Wagon, which in the last two years has gone from a presence in six cities to 33.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Carter said the company’s preparedness allowed it to flourish during the pandemic.

“We had spent four years really honing and perfecting our model for how we opened up new markets, how we established new hubs, everything from the regulatory, building our supply chain, building relationships with the vendors and the consumers, recruiting [and] training staff, and getting a driver pool ready to go,” said Carter. “And so, we recognized that there was an immense need for a solution like what we have to help producers be able to get their food now online and delivered to the door because that’s the only thing that worked in the pandemic.”

Market Wagon’s platform connects consumers with local farmers and food producers from whom they can order their good and have it delivered to their home.

Carter says the feedback from producers in the early days of the pandemic was overwhelming.

“We had farmers in my office in tears telling us that we saved their farm,” he said. “We had just an outpouring of gratitude for the ability to pivot immediately and be found online and be able to move the food that they’ve been producing, especially for farmers. It was hundreds and hundreds of new vendors onto our platform over the course of weeks…and they were able to not miss a beat.”

Carter says prior to the pandemic, about 5% of Americans had adopted e-commerce grocery shopping. But, he says the trend was “strong and long-term” with the number potentially growing to 20% by 2025.

He says the pandemic caused less of a paradigm shift and more of an acceleration of an eventuality.

“The things that people were going to be doing in the future with regards to e-commerce and home delivery, [the pandemic] accelerated that eventuality and made what we knew was a future eventuality a present reality,” he said. “And, it was head spinning to try to catch up to that future reality very, very quickly.”

Carter says as the recovery from the pandemic continues, the consumer e-commerce grocery patterns are not going away, which will allow for continued growth.

Market Wagon is now available in 33 markets across 20 states with a total of 57 employees. In the short-term, Carter says the company is looking to bolster efforts in those markets.

“We grew from six to 33 really rapidly. We need to get our legs underneath this, build some organizational structure in order to be able to support that and grow those markets over the next 6-12 months before we lean heavily back into geographic expansion.”

Carter says long-term, the company has identified 120 cities in the U.S. that can support a Market Wagon fulfillment center with the goal of setting up shop in all of them.