05 February 2021, 09:00 AM
  • The pandemic has accelerated the online food buying revolution, and marketplaces can offer a simple transition for smaller retailers and producers keen to explore their online options
7 online food marketplaces retailers need to know about

While the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for some businesses, not all have witnessed a downturn in sales. The food sector has been a rare bright spot in the economy, but online marketplaces, such as the likes of retail giant Amazon, have also been boosted by the rise in online shopping.

Convenience is the great selling point of the online marketplace. Indeed, of the 69% of Brits that regularly shopped online since March 2020, more than half of them made a purchase from an online marketplace, compared with just 13% buying directly from retailers’ websites, according to research from Adobe.

For independent food shops in particular, online marketplaces have the benefit of bringing together multiple small retailers to create a simpler and more straightforward shopping experience for consumers. If you’re looking to boost your sales by working together with other shops in your community, joining a marketplace could be a strong step forward into the world of e-commerce. Below, we’ve collected some of the food marketplaces making waves in the sector.

1. Siop.io
Developed over the past year in order to help independent food and drink retailers across northwest Wales reach their local communities, this bilingual e-commerce platform is an up-and-comer in the online marketplace ecosystem. Kodergarten, a north Wales software consultancy, designed the platform in order to help local businesses, including butchers, bakers, delis, and fruit and veg shops, dealing with intense competition from supermarket click-and-collect and delivery services through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As we all began hunkering down during the first lockdown in March 2020, it was clear to us that our local independent food retailers in north west Wales didn’t have much to sign up for if they wanted to move their business online,” explains Paul Sandham of Kodergarten. “There are all sorts of apps and sites that appeared to list individual businesses, but nothing to support independent food businesses and their local customer base to actually buy anything online and support the fulfilment of the order for both business and the customer.

“We wanted place and location to be at the core of what we developed,” Paul adds. “Where you live helps to determine which business you can buy from. It’s meant to help your local baker, deli, butcher to sell and deliver produce to their customers in the nearby village.” He believes it’s crucial for small retailers to have an e-commerce facility, but making it easy to sign up to and use was the key priority.

2. BigBarn
As the UK’s number one local food website, BigBarn aims to help reconnect consumers with their local producers, directly or through local retailers. The site, created by founder Anthony Davison, hosts around 9,000 producers on its local food map, and with around 90 other websites hosting this map, Anthony is working to get in front of as many eyes as possible.

The industry-wide platform offers local producers and retailers a chance to tell their stories and build local support through images and video, and it also contains a marketplace that aims to be “the Amazon of local food”, with more than 600 vendors selling more than 19,000 products. You can learn more about BigBarn’s work to kickstart the local food revolution in our free download, A Sustainable Future.

3. Good Sixty
Good Sixty was created in 2016 to help small Bristol retailers sell to their local community, but it has now expanded to Bath, Oxford and beyond. Co-founder Chris Edwards recently told Speciality Food that he wants to enable independent businesses to compete with the ‘big guys’ by helping them boost their online presence to reach new consumers and creating a place where they can work together.

Using the platform simplifies the local shopping process by allowing consumers to shop from a variety of retailers in a single place, making a single purchase, which is then delivered via a carbon-neutral delivery service. On average, the company says retailers on its platform see 10 times the volume for sales compared to individual online shop sales.

4. Harvest Bundle
While farm shops typically provide an excellent way for farmers to sell their products directly to shoppers, new initiatives like Harvest Bundle offer a new way to reach customers. The digital marketplace aims to provide shoppers with high-quality produce from farms and fisheries around the UK.

Founder Ben White-Hamilton is keen to use the benefits of online shopping to the advantage of local farmers. “People don’t live near farms anymore, they live in cities. Farmers’ markets have worked well for centuries, but with people leading lives that are incredibly busy it’s often hard to make time to visit them,” he previously told Speciality Food. “What e-commerce allows is modern technology applied to an almost forgotten historic tradition of buying direct.” With more consumers seeking to buy their food directly from producers, online marketplaces offer a simple and effective solution.

5. Open Food Network UK
The Open Food Network is another large-scale solution to the rising e-commerce trend. The platform offers a digital shop front for retailers or producers, and the software was built specifically for selling food, meaning it can handle unusual stock levels, such as a dozen eggs or a whole chicken that varies in weight.

Communities of producers can also come together to create a virtual stall on the site. For instance, Bowhouse Link, from Fife’s Bowhouse Market, uses the network to facilitate an online market for its producers and traders.

6. The Food Forager
While some online marketplaces span up and down the UK, others are hyper-local and focused on bringing the best their region has to offer to their community. Take The Food Forager, for instance. Set up by Iain Hemming after his deli’s new delivery service took off, this online business is shining a light on local producers in Hampshire and Wiltshire.

The marketplace was set up to boost local start-ups and independent businesses by getting more shops and their products on the map. The Food Forager has also introduced The Forager’s Table, offering meal kits with step-by-step recipe guides.

7. The Food Market
The Food Market is home to an array of gourmet, artisan, free-from and natural food and drinks from hundreds of small producers and retailers. Independents can join the platform, which aims to replicate the experience of perusing a farmers’ market, in order to boost their digital profile and enable them to deliver their products far beyond their local communities.

Joining a digital marketplace could provide your shop with an opportunity to support your local community or expand your reach to other areas of the UK. With the online shopping boom showing no signs of slowing, there’s no better time to look into your options.

Download a free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Online Retail here to discover more about e-commerce.

more like this