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商业 - 科技

这家生鲜电商能否干掉超市?

Beth Kowitt 2014年08月07日

客户在网上下单,在最短的时间内,农户直接将新鲜的农产品运送至指定取货点。主打生鲜牌的小型农场食品供应商Farmigo公司希望凭借这种已经获得初步成果的经营方式,把传统的大型连锁超市送进历史博物馆。

    本齐•罗内恩认为超市的时代即将结束,而他的公司正是加速其消亡的催化剂。

    罗内恩表示:“我们的目标是以生鲜为卖点,让超市变得过时。”

    他5年前创建的Farmigo公司现拥有30名员工。这家公司出售直接从农民处购买的农作物和牛奶、乳酪等产品,售价比杂货店的均价低10%到20%不等。其奥秘在于缩短了供应链,特别是去掉了中间环节。用户直接在网上下单,农民将产品送到中转站集中包装,Farmigo公司再将包裹送到社区配送点,顾客从那里取走包裹。这一切都在48小时之内完成。

    罗内恩解释道:“我们没有零售店,我们完全去除了零售环节,但依然能够及时供货。”这意味着中间没有冗余环节,农产品直接从庄稼地运送至顾客那里。

    Fresh Direct等其他零售商也取消了实体店。但罗内恩认为他们不过是超市模式的某种延伸,这类零售商依然跟超市一样,拥有储备大量存货的仓库。相反,Farmigo的中转站只有由农民送来,即将送去顾客那里的农产品。

    他解释道:“我们的整个食品供应系统是以规模效益为基础的。”他补充说,这是对中心轴辐式配送模式的一种改良,在这种模式下,食品往往被运送几百英里,经常在货架上停留好几周。他表示:“超市里的产品不够新鲜,而且容易造成浪费。”

    如果罗内恩的愿景变成现实,不出十年,你将从亚马逊(Amazon)等网站购买所有不易损害的物品,而Farmigo这类服务商会满足你所有的生鲜产品需求,社区商店则会成为需要紧急购买商品时的备选方案。罗内恩认为,Farmigo绝不会成为备选方案。目前,如果客户想在周三取货,他或她最晚要在周日晚下订单,但罗内恩表示该公司很快就将增加取货天数。

    对一个小型初创公司而言,这是一个十分大胆的愿望,尤其是现在的顾客已经习惯于随时享用草莓或番茄而不必考虑季节,习惯于品尝空运自摩洛哥的克莱门氏小柑橘和智利的黑鲈,同时还希望他们购买的产品能在下单后24小时内送到家门口。

    目前这家位于布鲁克林的公司只对纽约市和周边地区,以及旧金山湾区提供服务。他们会提供不同的农产品——一部分是与季节有关的时令产品,另一些则是全年都有的主食。罗内恩认为,如果Farmigo可以在这两个地区运作下去,该公司就能复制这一模式,建立一个覆盖全美的农户网络。

    罗内恩表示,根据人们的购买习惯和购买方针来看,Farmigo最终可能会向20%至30%的美国人提供服务,而目前只有不到1%的美国人参与了“社区支持农业项目”(CSA)。参加CSA项目的顾客必须承诺在一个季度之内,每周都从某个农场订购农产品。相比之下,Farmigo的顾客可以只发出一次性订单,也可以每周选择不同的农产品,根据订单的变化随时调整付款金额。罗内恩认为,CSA项目是对家门口小超市购物的补充,而Farmigo则是满足所有生鲜食品需求的取代者。

    Benzi Ronen thinks that the supermarkets’ time is up. And his company is just the thing to speed up its demise.

    “Our goal is to make the supermarket obsolete from a fresh perspective,” Ronen says.

    Farmigo, his five-year-old 30-employee startup, sells produce and other products like milk and cheese purchased directly from farmers for 10%-20% less than equivalent grocery store items. He does it by shrinking the supply chain, essentially taking out the middleman. Users place an order online; the order is fulfilled by a farmer who transports it to a centralized packing hub; and then Farmigo delivers it to community drop-off points for the customer to pick up. This all happens within 48 hours.

    “We don’t have a retail store,” Benzi explains. “We get rid of all of that. We source just in time.” That means there’s no waste and produce is brought directly from harvest.

    Other sellers, such as Fresh Direct, also cut out the physical store. But Ronen argues that they’re just an extension of the supermarket model, with similar warehouses that keep a huge inventory on hand. By contrast, Farmigo’s hubs are filled exclusively with product that’s just been delivered by farmers and is going out for delivery.

    “Our entire food system is based on economies of scale,” he explains, adding that it has contributed to the hub-and-spoke distribution model in which food travels hundreds of miles and can sit on shelves for weeks. “You don’t get fresh in supermarkets, and you also have waste,” he says.

    If Ronen’s vision for the future becomes a reality, in 10 years you’ll get all of your non-perishables from the likes of Amazon, while a service like Farmigo will answer all of your fresh needs. Neighborhood stores will act as gap-fillers for last-minute purchases. Farmigo, he notes, will never be a gap-filler. Currently orders must be placed by Sunday night for pick-up on Wednesday, but Ronen says the company is on track to soon expand to multiple pick-up days.

    It’s a highly audacious vision for a small upstart, especially in a world where consumers are accustomed to eating strawberries and tomatoes no matter the season, enjoy clementines flown in from Morocco and sea bass from Chile, and want purchases delivered to their doorstep within 24-hour hours.

    Right now Brooklyn-based Farmigo operates just in New York City and its environs and the San Francisco Bay Area, markets picked for their divergent agricultural offerings–one strongly shaped by the seasons, the other with stellar food options year round. If Farmigo can operate in these two regions, Ronen thinks the company will be able to replicate the model and build a network of farmers across the country.

    Farmigo could eventually reach about 20%-30% of the U.S. population based on people’s buying habits and guidelines, Ronen says, adding that community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs) currently reach less than 1%. Unlike CSAs, in which users must commit to weekly deliveries for a season from one farm, Farmigo lets customers place a one-time order and change selections every week. You pay as you go. Ronen views CSAs as supplementary to other grocery shopping. He envisions Farmigo as a replacement for all fresh needs.

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