ONLINE business Your Food Collective has launched four new collection points in Newcastle as it strives to more than triple its fresh produce trade this year.
The business was launched in 2017 by cousins Lauren Branson and Cara Cooper after they identified a growing appetite from "ethical" consumers who demanded to know more about what they were consuming.
"There is a real gap in the market, no one in Australia is really doing what we are doing as typically it's smoke and mirrors in the food industry - people are still getting ripped off when it comes to 'fresh'," says Ms Lauren, an environmental scientist.
Your Food Collective, which initially traded at The Edwards before opening a central warehouse in Tighes Hill, cuts out the "middle man" and allows consumers to buy direct from producers. Ms Branson says it is unlike some other online food operations who buy produce wholesale from Sydney markets and don't have a real connection to the producer.
The company has new collection points at Kotara, Charlestown, Redhead and Maitland, partnering with cafes, restaurants and pubs who also back local growers.
Ms Branson says growers on its books earn up to four times more than they would selling through a major supermarket, thanks to YFC's ability to cut out costs associated in distribution and transport.
"Producers have a massive financial gain and it is all about finding a viable market for family size farms," she says. "Australia has lost 20 per cent of of these farms in the past 10 years because they can't get product to market and make money from it."
Food wastage is slashed as the producer gets an order in advance and harvests only what is required and already sold, rather than picking a range of products which may otherwise go to a central market and not get sold and then go to waste.
The wins for consumers, says Ms Branson, is fresh food rather than "fresh" food that sits on supermarket shelves for as long as three or four weeks, and knowledge that their money is going direct to the grower.
Your Food Collective initially had 10 growers and now has 50-plus - and is expanding.
Last week it did 10,000 orders and since its inception in 2017 it has sold about 25,000 kilos of produce.
"In 2018 we did over $300,000 worth of sales and this year we are aiming to reach $1 million [gross]," says Ms Branson.
She believes consumer demand for fresh produce has been driven by poor supermarket quality and a general desire to know where their dollars are deposited. In addition, health concerns such as obesity and chronic illness linked to diet.
"Food is at the heart of all we do, the United Nations has 17 sustainable development goals and food is linked to every single one of them, so it's more and more in people's minds when they are thinking of building a better future," she says.
"If you shop locally you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85 per cent. Everyone is looking to help the environment, reduce climate change and help farmers and really the one simple thing people can do is shop locally."