When studying the sociological phenomena of consumerism in the western world, the theories of buyer’s remorse and the paradox of choice often surface. Too much influence, too steep of a price, or too many brands, sizes, and colors offered of an item can make decision making a headache and diminish the satisfaction of the buyer. Some immigrants report visiting North American grocery stores as a complete and total culture shock, because of all the different selections available when shopping for a single product.
And now with services like Jet, Shipt, Instacart and HEB’s Curbside Delivery (and in some zip codes, HEB now offers home delivery) you can eliminate even going into the grocery store, yet still have to choose from millions of products offered online and through apps to select what you need. Perhaps that’s one of the many reasons that farmers’ markets have grown in popularity in recent years; consumers want to not only purchase directly from local farmers but also eliminate making decisions.
Unfortunately for Houstonians, we don’t have many farmers markets to visit throughout the week. Most farmers markets are held during the weekend, and aren’t in the neighborhood of the majority of Houstonians. Small farmers market-like storefronts are popping up here and there – such as Katerra Exotics’s brick and mortar shop in Katy – and farm-to-table food delivery services and CSAs from local ranches like Jolie Vue Farms and Ranch to Kitchen are assisting in the growth of local farmers and ranchers getting their products to consumers. What if there was a way to support local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and other product suppliers in every neighborhood in town? Could there be a way for consumers to shop local, shop small, and get their shopping done more quickly?
Grit Grocery founders Michael Powell and Dustin Windham have been testing out Grit Grocery in different Houston neighborhoods. The storefront, which is essentially a farmers market on wheels, carries Gulf seafood, local proteins, veggies and fruits. Additionally, shoppers can find Houston-made pasta, bread, pickles, honey, ice cream and even rice amongst the many items under the striped awning. (To read more about Grit Grocery‘s research and suppliers, and to donate to their campaign, click here.)
Of course, there are some caveats to operating a truck instead of a brick-and-mortar store. Trucks selling food require updated permits from the commissary on a strict schedule. Inclimate weather like flooding can make receiving local goods from suppliers tough, and ensure that the trucks are out and operating literally impossible as we’ve seen with Harvey. And what about local farmers being able to meet the demands that may arise from the success of the truck? “Selling at peak freshness and minimizing shrinking are two top priorities as we grow,” said Windham. “For example, Gunderman Farms, which is a local farm that got hit hard by the recent flood, it won’t be fully back and running until spring. Many vendors at our local farmers’ markets are struggling to get back on their feet.”
On another note, what about the recent trend of at-home meal kits which are delivered by companies like Blue Apron? “We find that cooking is a big challenge for many people. A lot [of consumers] are aware that it is healthier to cook for themselves but the lack of familiarity is scaring younger people. People are getting these huge cardboard boxes filled with items that aren’t local and tons of little containers and they’re not enjoying the process.” Windham and Powell explained that their meal bundles concept, which includes selling ingredients on the bus which compliment each other as a meal and sharing with customers simple, easy methods of food preparation encourages their customers to cook themselves at home, without worrying about special techniques or obscure ingredients. All the while, their grocery concept supports the same vendors that sell at farmers markets only making the items available more often, and in more neighborhoods. The meal bundles would cost $7-$10 per serving. The general price point of Grit Grocery goods is “between Whole Foods and Kroger,” the website states.
What about other essentials, like toilet paper and dog food? “Our focus is on healthy snack foods, breakfast and dinner items,” say the gentlemen of Grit Grocery. “We compliment those trips to Costco or your scheduled Amazon order.”
“We’re currently working with around 30 suppliers, and hope to add more vendors in the future, such as cheeses made in Texas, aquaponic greens, and this mushroom dude. We love the little guys,” noted Windham. “To get a locally made product into a store like HEB is like winning the lottery, and many local makers can’t meet the demands of a major grocer who may order thousands of items to stock all their stores. We allow these small companies and suppliers a chance to grow.”
Grit Grocery is currently seeking investors. An investment of $250 is the starting point for contributions through their WeFunder website.