"The food system is great at producing food, but it's really lousy at making sure it all gets used," explains FoodMaven CEO and founder Patrick Bultema.
His goal is to create a better system by using technology to track and manage the supply chain so that more food makes it onto plates and shelves, to provide a market for producers who are too big for the farmers' markets but too small for the national chains, and, now, to add processing facilities that apply the FoodMaven ethos to meat production.
The company just acquired Anderson Beef, so it has a Colorado meat processing center of its own. In addition to Anderson's current production, Bultema plans to nearly double production at the facility by bringing in livestock from many local farmers and ranchers. There are currently very few USDA-inspected slaughterhouses in Colorado, so small, family-run farms must often pay premium prices to get their meat to grocery stores or truck animals long distances before they're slaughtered. FoodMaven can now provide a cheaper alternative for low-volume processing while using its network to make sure as much of the meat as possible is sold or otherwise used.
Bultema notes that his company runs on a zero-landfill model, so food that isn't sold is donated. Currently, 20 to 30 percent of FoodMaven's stock is donated to food banks, in part to reduce waste, but also to fight hunger and positively impact the community. The company also works with pet-food manufacturers to make sure all of the animal is utilized, and that even food scraps will make it into livestock feed rather than a landfill. "We make sure organ meats and byproducts can be used rather than becoming an an environmental hazard," Bultima says.
FoodMaven is able to offer food at a lower cost to restaurants and markets by controlling every aspect of purchasing, storage and distribution, so meats and produce can be tracked more closely and moved quickly, resulting in less waste. Customers include smaller ethnic restaurants and deal-oriented eateries looking for quality ingredients, specialty products not handled by larger suppliers, and locally grown food.
Bultema says that upscale independent restaurants, such as Humboldt Farm Fish Wine, Briar Common Brewery + Eatery, Stout Street Social, the Hotel Boulderado and Steamers Coffee House in Arvada are also taking advantage of FoodMaven's ability to source from local farmers, and such institutions as colleges and hospitals are a growing part of the customer base, as food-service managers demand higher quality and local sourcing. Right now, about one third of FoodMaven's products are Colorado-grown, but that amount could increase with the addition of Anderson and other future acquisitions.
FoodMaven's goal isn't to go head-to-head with the large "broadliners" like Sysco or Shamrock, though. "We aren't going to have everything all the time," Bultema says, but notes that the company will be able to respond more quickly to customer requests.
"Positive social impact and added revenue for producers," explains Bultema, are the ultimate goals of FoodMaven. The CEO adds that being a for-profit company is a great way to achieve those goals. "We're taking a private equity-style approach for speed to market and efficiency, and Anderson is the first of these acquisitions."