I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asks me why our farm's food is not in the supermarket.
The first supermarket officially opened in 1946. That's not very long ago. Might there be a time when it ceases to exist? Possibly. As electronic aggregation, internet shopping carts, and sophisticated delivery software and logistics make bricks and mortar retail interfaces obsolete, we may see the demise of the supermarket as we know it in our lifetime.
Supermarkets are clunky. They're also incredibly bureaucratic. The bigger they are the worse it is. Just recently, Shenandoah Valley Organics, a fledgling factory-chicken organic outfit, thought they had a good relationship with Costco. But Costco negotiated a cost-plus private label organic with JBS/Pilgrim, a massive industry conglomerate, and left Shenandoah Valley Organics out in the cold. I'm not a fan of any type of factory chicken, organic or otherwise, but I'm going to bat for our little regional start-up.
The question is this: do we work within the system to try to get access, or do we simply create a completely different system? Anyone who works with large supermarket outfits learns quickly how precious a penny is and how fragile a promise is. Between insurance, certification regulations, tracking numbers, bar codes, night-time unloading times, minimum delivery truck sizes, 90-120-day invoice remuneration, and slotting fees, common sense dictates caution.
More and more I find myself advising people to go anywhere but the supermarket. All sorts of alternative venues exist, from on-farm stores to internet shopping carts to farmers' markets. Let the supermarkets play their games. We'll play a different game on a different court. Who needs them? You've got to be a big player and be ready for combat to work with Costco.
I have never been in Costco. And I think I've been in a Wal-Mart perhaps 5 times in the last 10 years. How long has it been since you've been in one?