Chicago-based Farmer’s Fridge says it has found a solid niche in Indiana as it continues to rebound from the pandemic. The company launched in 2019, placing vending machines in office buildings and providing healthy foods instead of candy bars and potato chips. The company says it was enjoying success, but then the pandemic struck and office buildings emptied.
In an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta, founder Luke Saunders said Farmer’s Fridge made a quick pandemic pivot to keep the company alive as the crisis began to unfold.
“We know a lot of our customers are busy people at work, they’re on the go. They’re traveling through the airport that’s about to stop. So, where are they going to go? And we realized a lot of them were going to go home,” said Saunders.
It was a potentially devastating blow to a young business that relied solely on its customers to work in person in office buildings.
Saunders says over one weekend, he and his team were able to refocus the business and launch a home delivery service. While not abandoning the original business plan, they rebuilt their website, allowing customers to make orders.
Saunders says it was a matter of survival.
“We have no idea how long this is going to last, and our revenue is going to go down 80% because really, we only were serving hospitals at that point,” reflected Saunders. “It was one of those moments where you said if this doesn’t work, I don’t know what else we’re going to do.”
Saunders says the company was able to return to pre-pandemic revenue within six to eight weeks of making the switch.
While successful, he says the original business plan of using smart refrigerators is still its “bread and butter.”
“The fridges that are open are actually doing better than before the pandemic. We added features like touchless pick up where you don’t have to touch the fridge at all,” said Saunders. “It’s actually still our biggest business. And still at the heart of what we do.”
Right now, the service covers about two-thirds of Indiana, using its own delivery vans, as well as UPS and FedEx service. Saunders says they are planning on offering its home delivery across the remainder of the state within the next few months.