Want “wild” foods? Foraged Market Reveals All This and More

Jack Hamrick tried to reduce the amount of red meat he ate, but the typical Portobello mushroom alternative got boring very quickly.

When he started looking for a wild mushroom called chicken of the woods, he had a hard time buying it. That’s when he met Andy Conner, a certified mushroom hunter, who had the opposite problem: struggling to sell 10 pounds of seaweed he had found.

Seeing no option there – Etsy doesn’t have a category for food, Hamrick said – together they created Forgea Community Wild and Specialty Foods Market, in May 2021 to provide a place for “gatherers” to sell the food they have harvested.

Hamrick says mushrooms are a $13 billion market and calls Foragé “the Etsy of specialty foods.” Indeed, it is a lucrative market and the site’s products cost an average of between 40 and 50 dollars per pound.

However, he doesn’t want you to think that Foraged is some kind of online farmer’s market.

“It’s for heirloom and boutique pickers and farmers who want to sell food with a story,” he added. “I’ve seen attempts at online farmers’ markets, but it often ends up as a subscription box and then fails. We have food artisans who sell foods and complementary products that you won’t find anywhere else.

Here’s how it works: Foragers apply to sell on the marketplace, and Foraged staff vet and onboard them, providing a store and e-commerce tools. The company is taking 10% of basket value at the moment — the average order value last month was $123 — but as it gets more sophisticated, Hamrick said the company will look for other ways. to generate income.

When Hamrick and Conner first opened apps, 100 people signed up almost immediately to sell. Within months, 500 customers were shopping at the market, ranging from Michelin and James Beard star chefs to food enthusiasts. The site currently boasts an average of 20% return purchases from customers.

Since its launch, the co-founders have started the company, which was good, and forced them to be responsible, Hamrick said. Foraged is growing 434% quarter-over-quarter, spent just $3,000 on marketing, and is gaining a TikTok following thanks to browsers like Alexis Nikol.

Now that the company has a presence in 47 states and five countries, Hamrick and Conner have other aspirations for the company, including building a social network/community for mushroom and specialty food lovers like themselves. Oh, and finally paying for it.

Last September, some investors, including celebrity chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio and Sam Shank, CEO of HotelTonight and chief commercial officer at Airbnb, injected $200,000 in pre-seed funding into Foraged.

“The natural foods category presents ideal conditions for developing a large market: a fragmented set of suppliers who can turn their hobby into a meaningful business, and passionate consumers who seek new, premium products direct from producers,” Shank said via email. “All of that, plus an amazing set of founders to seize this opportunity.”

Colicchio told me that he invests in companies that correspond to areas that interest him and that provide a solution to a problem. In Foraged’s case, his favorite food is wild mushrooms – porcini mushrooms, morels and chanterelles are his favorites – but unless someone has a direct connection to a restaurant or sales, he was difficult for people to sell and make a living before Foraged.

Forged, Jack Hamrick, Andy Conner

Forage co-founders Jack Hamrick and Andy Conner. Picture credits: Forge

In addition, he enjoys working with small family farms and with an idea that makes products accessible not only to chefs, but to any consumer.

“There are a lot of things that are hard to find, for example sassafras leaves,” Colicchio added. “I would go to Kentucky to get them, but with this website I don’t have to travel and it’s easy to navigate.”

Meanwhile, the new funding saw the company make its first hire last month to join entrepreneurs working on technology. Hamrick also wants to create custom packaging options for sellers to standardize offerings while allowing brands to retain their uniqueness.

“Now that we have more than one budget, we are focusing on strategic partnerships with influencers in specialty food, culinary production and community organizing and will be adding more features,” a- he added. “The idea is to combine the market with the community so that we have a strategic gap.”

With this year’s sales expected to “be gangbusters,” the company plans to do a more formal round later this year and fetch $5 million.

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