Pete Russell 


Never before has so much of the world’s food supply been controlled by so few people. A handful of elite executives wield an incredible amount of power over the rest of us.

Along with our unprecedented vulnerability, our centralised food system has brought many other problems, including

·         major depletion of our soils and ecosystems caused by megascale monocrops;

·         the extreme carbon footprint of chemical fertilisers and extraordinary food miles;

·         global disease epidemics from an overload of synthesized ingredients and preservatives;

·         malnourishment of near 1 billion people caused by the primary aim of the food industry being to make money, not to feed people.


What would have to happen for us to short-circuit mass-produced, synthetic, centralised food – to bypass the supermarket – and have authentic local and cottage foods the more affordable and convenient option?

A few years ago, I was unknowingly helping to concentrate more power into fewer hands.


My role was to help a European multinational gain entry into the Australian market where it could start to dominate the sweet bread sector, and we were quite successful. In a very short time we racked up sales over $1 million per month and took a lot of business away from many small and local patisseries around the country – and I was gaining a behind-the-scenes perspective of how the centralised food game is really played.


I’d believed that supermarkets and megachains were so big and successful because they somehow knew how to deliver “the Best Products at the Best Prices”.



What I discovered, however, is illustrated in the chart (where the dots, representing the different suppliers of a particular product or range, indicate the volume each is capable of producing): the best products at the best prices often don’t even get considered by mainstream food outlets unless they can also be produced in enormous quantities.


The reason for this is that it’s much cheaper to deal with one supplier than 100. So most shoppers get a choice of buying food supplied by the big players only, even though it’s often lower value for money. The small players are sidelined and either scratch out a living at weekend farmers’ markets, or sell to boutique retail outlets.


When we shop at the mainstream outlets, we’re missing out on many of the best products at the best prices. So why don’t we all just start buying from the little guys instead?

Because it's not convenient. Going to a farmers’ market on the weekend is a nice idea for some, but for most of us it’s just too much of a hassle. We’ll keep shopping with supermarkets and mega-food chains for as long as they’re more convenient – even if it’s worse for us and our society.

If we could find a way to make buying local and cottage food the more convenient option, we’d not only get better value for money but also be

·         supporting local economies by increasing local employment and food production skills,

·         reducing our carbon footprint,

·         eating more natural ingredients and

·         putting power back into the hands of the many.


Beating the big players on both value and convenience can be done – and it's simpler than you may imagine. Remember how eBay turned the second-hand goods industry on its head? We’re about to do the same with food.

The market’s ripe for this kind of disruption: there’s a massive consumer migration from shopping in the stores to shopping online - for the sake of convenience. When you're at your computer, you’re levelling the playing field: buying local and cottage food can be just as convenient as buying mass-produced products.

What we need is an online marketplace where a full variety of locally-produced food is available from one place. This is the very innovation the team at Ooooby has been working on.

We’ve devised a way to make local and cottage food as easy and affordable as possible: a local food system prototype which has already delivered over 16,000 boxes of local food to over 900 Auckland doorsteps.



Our crew runs a super-lean logistical system and keeps things radically simple, operating from a shipping container in a carpark and using our homes and backyards as office space. Our customers are as delighted as our suppliers: so far we’ve been able to keep prices around 5% lower than normal retail prices.


We believe the food marketplace of the future needs to be free of individual ownership.  Though local operators of Ooooby Hubs are private businesses, the Ooooby platform they use is owned in common to keep it fair for everyone.


We’re ready to help launch the Ooooby model into new cities and towns, so if you’d like Ooooby to happen in your area just This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

We can look forward to an age of nutritious food – provided enough of us support local growers. By making local food a priority, you can help us make grocery shopping the easiest and most fun way to create a bright food future for our kids.