American consumers flock to organic and natural foods stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for the healthy offerings. But products on a store shelf only have so much space to tell their rich back stories, says Richard Demb.
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That’s why the CEO of AbesMarket.com – a marketplace for organic goods -- turned to ecommerce.
“There’s a tremendous amount of demand for natural and organic foods, but there’s no one focusing online on that consumer,” Demb said. “We can directly cater to them, with between 10,000 and 12,000 different products online at any given time.”
The 25-person company, headquartered in Chicago, was co-founded by Demb in 2009 with Jon Polin. He says the company has doubled and tripled its sales year-over-year.
“The ability to tell your story online is extremely valuable,” he said. “On store shelves, you don’t have the space, but online, you can use video, rich photography, interviews—we give the brand the opportunity to do so.”
Abe’s also wants to help smaller up-and-coming organic brands grow.
The company just gave a “six-figure” investment to Quinn Popcorn, which launched on Kickstarter and was one of the first products to be sold on AbesMarket.com. The investment comes via Abe’s Velocity Fund, a new venture between Abe’s and one of its backers, Mistral Equity.
The $10 million investment project will fund between eight and ten companies per year. Investments will range from $100,000 to $1 million per company, Demb says, with Abe’s taking a piece of equity in each brand.
“We will invest in what we think are the most promising new brands,” he says. “It will be based on the brand’s valuation, their need for capital and more. They have to be non-perishable, natural and organic products that meet our criteria. We have to see what our audience feels.”
The beauty of running an ecommerce platform is the ability to speak directly to the company’s consumers, Demb says.
“It’s convenience and accessibility, but also information. We try to empower you, consumers can ask questions directly of the manufacturer on Abe’s,” he says. “You can’t build a community in the supermarket aisle, but you can do it online. “