Of the many different industries that are being enhanced by the internet, the sale of food directly to the consumer is one of the most interesting. Chipolte Mexican Grill, a popular franchise across the United States has teamed up with Shopify, one of the largest online retailers to provide consumers with the means to purchase food directly from farmers.
Purchasing food online is relatively new, but not unheard of as other major internet businesses sell food directly to consumers. Most notably Amazon which launched their program a few years ago. However, the combination of Chipolte and Shopify represents a new step in bringing consumers and farmers closer together.

Online Farmer’s Market
Called the Chipolte Virtual Farmer’s Market, the is a point-of-sale system that allows farmers to sell their dairy, grain, and meat products directly to consumers in the US. As part of the program, Chipolte will pay for the first two years of hosting fees on Shopify for farmers who want to participate. This means that farmers can save from $29 up to $299 per month for the first 24 months if they decide to set up an online store in Shopify when participating in the Chipolte Virtual Farmer’s Market.

In addition, Chipolte is adding online support to help design and develop sites created by farmers to further enhance their ability to reach the public. Bypassing traditional grocery and food-related retail stores, farmers now have another path to reaching consumers. Four food suppliers are part of the start-up program:
• McKaskle Family Farm
• Meister Cheese
• Niman Ranch
• Petaluma Creamery
This experiment in direct sales to the public will no doubt have some issues to iron out. Most notably that most consumers still prefer to purchase food from stores instead of online. However, the convenience of ordering food online may not only open up new avenues of sales, it may help some farms and food suppliers stay in business.

Advantages
There are definite benefits for farmers, consumers, Chipolte, and Shopify assuming that the program does survive, and farmers begin joining in large numbers. The key will be if consumers begin to change long-established habits of heading to the grocery store and instead start using their smartphones, tablets, and computers to order food.

Fast & Convenient: For consumers, this new program represents the opportunity to purchase food products directly from farmers from the conveniences of their devices. This means with a few clicks they can get the food products they want to be delivered to their home quickly.
Bypasses Middlemen: For farmers, the online market represents a means of opening up new avenues of sales. Given that Chipolte is paying for the Shopify online stores for the first two years, it also greatly reduces the cost and risk of creating an online presence.

In the end, the Chipolte Virtual Farmer’s Market offers farms and food suppliers a unique opportunity. By starting their online stores on Shopify for a fraction of the cost and getting professional assistance, they can add to the ways of increasing cash flow beyond traditional selling methods.

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