Jennifer Goggin is the director of retail services at Crave Food Systems, a virtual farmers market for wholesale customers seeking to purchase from local producers. She spends most of her work days knee-deep in the food supply chain dealing with truckers, wholesale buyers, and supermarket chains.
Goggin wants to solve scale for local food by focusing on relationships between regional farmers and the major retailers where people buy most of what they eat.
She came to Crave Food Systems after founding two of her own companies. First, she co-founded FarmersWeb, an enterprise software company for farmers. She left that company two years ago to found Pippin Foods, which focuses on getting local food into supermarkets. In July 2017, Crave Food Systems acquired Pippin Foods.
We caught up with Goggin about working in the supply chain and with legacy grocery stores – both corners of the food system dominated by men.
What have you noticed about the gender landscape of your industry? Where do you interface with other women and what are they doing?
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There are not many women in the supply chain world that I can think of. It seems like women gravitate more towards the consumer-facing and community building aspect of the industry. There are a lot of women involved in food brands, building and creating food companies, but something about trucking and supply chains doesn’t pull a lot of women in. At one family farm that I’ve worked with, the current generation happens to be all female. When I met them, they commented on how nice it is to see women in the agricultural industry for once and how rare it is for them to have sales meetings with women. Whenever they sit down at the table, it’s always across from men.
The grocery stores and supermarkets that I work with now have been around for a long time – the legacy retail space is definitely predominantly male. But I represent the target demographic for a lot of the stores I deal with – I’m female and a millennial – which actually makes my pitch more compelling. I can say, ‘This is something that I personally would really love to use and see,’ and their ears perk up because they are actively trying to reach my demographic.
You left FarmersWeb, a company you helped found, two years ago. How have the gender dynamics of your work changed since then?
I left FarmersWeb because I wanted to explore and potentially change the way in which people buy the majority of their food. When I looked at where that bulk purchasing was happening, it’s really within these supermarket chains. They have enormous buying power and control over what type of food people have access to and are buying on a daily basis. I didn’t really think about whether the gender dynamic would be any different.
I was just looking to have a bigger impact. One of my missions in life is to figure out how to strengthen and build up the local and regional food system that has emerged in the past decade but still has a long way to go to represent a significant percentage of our food industry. As much as I think it’s important to connect smaller farmers with independent restaurants or smaller outlets, I want to figure out how to scale it up as well.
What kind of criticism have you received and how have you managed it?
I take criticism with a grain of salt. The most skepticism that I’ve received, and this has been a constant in my time in the food tech industry, is that people don’t think farmers readily adopt technology. However, I’ve found that farmers are enthusiastic about new options almost immediately, as long as it brings them a clear benefit. I knew what people were telling me about the lack of adoption wasn’t actually true, and it was mostly coming from people that were not directly working with the farms – potential investors and partners who weren’t actually involved in the wholesale food world.
How do you think the B2B space would be different were more women involved?
The supply chain might be more fairly set up for producers and farmers. In large-scale systems, the buyer is almost always the one dictating the terms. Farmers take what’s offered to them from buyers who are prioritizing the lowest price above all else. I wonder if more women were involved, it might be a fairer system. But that could just be because there aren’t very many women currently in positions to lowball farmers, and gender wouldn’t make any difference – who knows!
photo: The Women of Crave Food Systems (Jennifer Goggin, center)