Fresh Fruit Portal | U.S.: Local produce segment where organic was 15 years ago, says BrightFarms

September 20, 2018

U.S. greenhouse company BrightFarms says there is huge untapped potential in the locally grown produce market and believes the rapidly growing category is roughly where the organic sector was around 15 years ago.

The company, which was founded by CEO Paul Lightfoot nearly a decade ago, is undergoing a major expansion, this year opening its fourth greenhouse, based in Ohio, and also completing a series D funding round of US$55 million led by Cox Enterprises.

Now, BrightFarms is aiming to build a further 10 to 15 greenhouses around the country over the next three to five years.

Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal, vice president of marketing Abby Prior said preference toward locally grown produce is one of the biggest consumer trends nowadays.

“We see massive untapped potential from the consumer side,” she said.

“When you ask a consumer, ‘If pricing were consistent, would they prefer a locally grown, a conventional item or an organic item?’, about 56% of consumers will tell you that they prefer locally grown.

The category is still dwarfed by the organic segment – which is about four-times larger – mainly because of the complexities of growing and distributing local produce, Prior said. But although the category remains small, it is undergoing “explosive” growth.

Sustainability and consistency are two of locally grown produce’s stand-out benefits, with much of the produce industry facing issues such as rising freight costs, a shortage of truck drivers, and weather and climate volatility.

“We see local not only as a consumer demand driver but also as a solution to the major issues facing the produce industry today,” Prior said.

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