Germany operational plan
The pilot region MECK-SCHWEIZER (www.meck-schweizer.org), a local food network by the cooperative ELG Mecklenburgische Schweiz eG, operates in the middle of the German State Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, a rural and sparsely populated area called Mecklenburgische Schweiz. Within 50 km distance are three larger towns, important economic sectors are agriculture, forestry and tourism.
Since 2016 MECK-SCHWEIZER, with 2 employees, has run and owned a B2B online platform where farmers and producers directly sell to their business customers from special shops and HoReCa sector. For vendors the platform is free of costs, buyers have to pay a 10% fee on top of each purchase. For delivery, platform users can use the MECK-SCHWEIZER logistics company, charge is 10% of purchase price.
The platform has many suppliers and a broad range of products but it lacks customers. The market potential around the home village Gessin did not live up to the expectations, the trading area had to be enlarged, sales costs increased. Thus, the food network still depends on public funding.
The operational plan aims at improved sales and marketing by prioritizing and finding new business segments, in order to turn the platform into a self-sustaining business within 3 years, with thorough financial planning for improved controlling.
Interviews and surveys gave in-depth knowledge about customers, followed by SWOT- and competitor analyses per business segment. The HoReCa sector was found to be too demanding, organic growth is welcome but no extra marketing effort will be made. Special shops remain in the focus, growth potential is seen in intensified business with current customers and in the publicly fostered re-opening of village shops. A new pricing model for the platform shall attract more customers. Service charges for marketing and maintenance are split between vendors and buyers, a discount system encourages larger and repeated purchase and membership in the cooperative.
In view of the available product range and the importance of tourism, selling assortments of local food products for tourists to the accommodation sector is a new B2B target. The food network will also enter the B2C market, with product assortments for locals. This potential seems easier to tap than B2B, so for a sustainable economic base the MECK-SCHWEIZER need to combine B2B and B2C.
The value propositions of MECK-SCHWEIZER are: easy access to a broad range of fresh and/or innovative local food products at a fair price, B2C marketing for those products plus advisory services regarding products, assortment options and seasonality. The design, delivery and scale of each service differs according to customer segment.
The online platform tool will be rolled out to neighbouring local food networks. Their sales will earn the MECK-SCHWEIZER a commission. Once MECK-SCHWEIZER is an established brand among customers, fees for a product quality label can generate additional income.
The MECK-SCHWEIZER developed a sustainable logistics concept for drop shipping in line operation, thus avoiding stock management. Solar powered refrigerated e-lorries cover the region in four loops, routes that intersect at one point in the middle where products can be exchanged and e-lorries recharged. The power for the e-lorries is produced by a photovoltaic system installed on the office roof. The power is stored intermediately in buffer storage and is available for the lorries from a fast-charging station.