Ben Mustin and Jim Mills founded MM Local in 2009 to introduce a trusted brand for authentic local food that connects consumers to farmers – in the grocery store. Starting in Colorado, we began partnering with local farmers to preserve their ripe surplus produce for people to enjoy throughout the year. Our first products were simply-preserved peaches, tomatoes with basil, and pickled chile peppers – simple recipes made with some of Colorado’s best organic produce. Since making those first 5,000 jars in rented commissary space, our business has really taken off.
Our success starts with our farming partners. Since day one, we’ve built meaningful partnerships with local, organic farmers to preserve surplus and first market fruits and vegetables that both reduces surplus food waste and helps increase production in local agriculture. In fact, in 2014, our 15 farming partners in Colorado grew their sales to MM Local by over 80%. But at the end of the day, our support for farms is about more than the produce we buy. By serving as a vital outlet valve for surplus produce, we help farmers grow more produce for wholesale and farmers markets and take risks to grow local produce supply, knowing they have a trusted partner to help buy more produce when it’s available.
Connecting our customers to the farmer who grow their food is part of our mission and part of our product. We label every jar with the farmer who grew what’s inside. By connecting customers in an authentic way with the organic family farmers who grow their food, our goal is to raise awareness of local agriculture with our community. And, with 70% of consumers expressing a preference to know where their foods come from and 49% of consumers expressing a preference to buy more local produce, our products meet consumers where their values and purchase preferences align.
The result is a brand that brings the Farm-to-Table concept to life off the shelf in grocery stores. Our successful retail partnerships are based on bringing a connection to local farmers to life, all year round. With consumer demand for local food increasing, chains like Whole Foods Market, Kroger, and Natural Grocers are eager to provide authentic local product offerings. Through innovative merchandising strategies that bring multiple local products together underneath our recognizable MM Colorado brand, we’ve been able to create a compelling in-store presence. And by focusing delicious, high-quality products, we’ve been able to deliver category-leading velocity in three categories (pickled vegetable, preserved fruit and live-fermented vegetables) at a premium price-point. It’s a win-win for our farmers, our customers and our retailers.
As our successful partnerships with leading retailers and local farmers have grown, so too has our impact. Since our founding, MM Local has preserved nearly 1,000,000 pounds of surplus produce grown by local, organic farmers in Colorado. We’ve created full-time seasonal jobs for over 100 Colorado residents – over 35% of whom have been displaced immigrants entering the workforce for the first time. And as our sales increase – surpassing $1M annually in the Rocky Mountain region over the past fiscal year – we are seeing the impact accelerate. In the fall of 2015, our purchases from local farmers will exceed 350,000 pounds in Colorado and over 75,000 pounds in the Pacific Northwest.
Today MM Local is poised at a truly exciting moment for growth. Starting in September 2015, we will be scaling production operations in the Pacific Northwest to preserve local produce and begin replicating our model in a second market. Meanwhile, we project our retail sales in the Rocky Mountain region will grow by over 70% in fiscal year 2016 (ending in April 2016).
Over the past year, our team has grown to meet the opportunity ahead of us. As Co-Founder and CEO, Jim brings a seasoned sales and marketing background and entrepreneurial drive to lead MM Local’s overall top and bottom line growth, and unique go to market strategies with its retail partners. As Co-Founder and President, Ben Mustin applies his background in product development, brand strategy and organizational performance to bring great products to market in a pioneering manufacturing model. Jim and Ben are joined by a strong team of food professionals including Director of Operations Vijay Bachus (formerly of Boulder Organic Foods and Madhava), Production Supervisor Juan Gomez (formerly of Claremont Foods), Sales and Marketing Coordinator Stacy Greenlee (formerly of Made in Nature) and Controller Lucas Marquardt (of Qrunch Foods).
With the additional financing round we are seeking to raise – in addition to $650K in new debt and equity financing already secured in 2015 – MM Local will be positioned to build the inventory we need to support ongoing growth. With that capital, we believe our company will be positioned to continue rapid revenue growth driven by our Colorado and Pacific Northwest product lines over the next 12-18 months. And – with successful execution – we believe we will be positioned to create sustainable expansion to new markets nationally within the next three years.