A new online farmers’ market is throwing a lifeline to small food and beverage producers caught up in the Covid-19 crisis.
It’s already proving a source of hope and alternative income for many small family businesses around New Zealand.
Maker2u was launched on March 23 to provide much-needed new sales to artisan food and beverage producers that have had other sales channels collapse because of Covid-19.
Its mission is to enable Kiwi families to browse and purchase direct from New Zealand boutique makers.
By April 2 the farmers’ market had 220 stores from small producers of food, drinks and other goods. It’s free for approved makers to set up a store. Shoppers buy direct from the maker and goods are sent by courier.
Maker2u was originally created by Canterbury couple Hamish and Suzy Hutton to help friends with small businesses get more of the final retail price of their products than they were getting from the supermarket duopoly.
Suzy’s background is in web development and Hamish, from a farming family, has a background in marketing. While consulting to a wine business he learned it needed a web platform so Suzy offered to build it.
Covid accelerated plans
Things grew from there to a pilot late last year. Participating businesses and customers were surveyed and improvements made. When Covid-19 raised its head in February the couple and their Wellington-based web designer accelerated development.
We just needed to give these people hope and a lifeline,” Hamish says.
“The most uplifting thing is that we are helping really good people. The best type of people you can be working with,” Hamish says.
The marketplace is split into Maker2u.com, for artisan food, health and beauty and other groceries, and Maker2uCellar.com, a licensed seller of boutique wines, craft beers, cider, artisan spirits and other drinks.
Everything must be made in New Zealand and all makers receive 90 per cent of the price with no cost of sale.
We felt it was unethical to profit from the Covid crisis,” says Suzy.
“So we’ve reduced the marketplace commission to 10 per cent which only covers the credit card fees and costs of operation. We have an amazing team of friends who are helping us to provide customer support.”
Stores growing daily
The number of stores is growing daily and some “amazing” producers have come on board, Hamish says.
In the first week 6000 shoppers visited Maker2u “which is high for week one of any new site,” says Suzy.
“People are clearly loving browsing so many great Kiwi products because the average site visit is well over four minutes,” she says.
Some of NZ’s finest
“We’re excited to already have some of New Zealand’s finest producers on board,” says Suzy.
“Covid is catastrophic for these important regional employers but, with everyone’s support they will survive and keep their communities strong.”
“Maker2u is a highly resilient food supply system too,” says Hamish.
“It relies on small factories dotted round New Zealand and the national courier fleet. It doesn’t suffer from the bottlenecks supermarket home delivery has.”
Already many locked-down kiwis are also using the site to buy treats for themselves, Hamish says.
Producers of perishable foods such as vegetables and fruit can show the boundaries of the areas they can deliver to.
Long-term the Huttons are planning to open the platform up to export orders from target markets offshore.
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