Are you in?
What began as a simple vision in early 2010, in.gredients opened its doors in the summer of 2012 with a clear but ambitious mission: reduce waste; promote local, sustainable food; and build community. This Thanksgiving season, more than a year after opening and almost four after the idea’s genesis, we are filled with gratitude for all those who’ve helped us make significant inroads in each of these areas. We know that “we” isn’t just the fifteen of us on the in.gredients Team, or our 70+ vendors, but rather the entire community of customers and boosters who’ve supported us along the way. As we (the in.gredients team) take a day of rest on this infamously busy shopping day (aka “Green Friday”), we’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on our successes, be open about the challenges that lie ahead, and share our vision for the coming months and years.
Let’s start with our successes. As a food retail business, we’ve sent zero pounds of food waste to the landfill since opening (something most American households and businesses can’t dream of), and averaged less than 3.5 pounds of landfill waste per month (dumpster? what dumpster?). We’ve supported over 60 Central Texas farmers and ranchers who use sustainable practices with over 75% of revenues going directly back into the local economy. We’ve also hosted over 50 community events with non-profit partners, like-minded businesses, neighborhood leaders, and musicians. In many ways our first year of business has been a resounding success.
The challenges we face are too evident to ignore, however. Recently we conducted a survey to gauge customer satisfaction and preferences and the results were clear: eating seasonally, locally, and package-free is a task still reserved for a minority of early adopters. If we can’t reverse the culture of convenience that’s been built over the last few decades of cheap food, abundant global distribution, and savvy marketing, we can be honest about how those factors have made our particular crusade that much more difficult, and what it will take for us (in.gredients and the community we serve) to overcome those hurdles. For example, our locally-produced, small-scale, unsubsidized goods may appear expensive in comparison to what fills most grocery store shelves, where the real cost of food is externalized and hidden from the consumer. And since our zero waste, package-free ambitions are on the vanguard of food retail (though harkening back to earlier times), there are other costs – the financial risks of trial and error, for one – associated with our particular slice of innovation. As a triple bottom line business we believe in sustainability on three levels – people, planet, and profit – and we’re patient for all three to come around. But that patience is founded in a resounding belief that we (the community) can return to the art of cooking, reclaim the joys of local food, and break the curse of convenience.
Doing business with in.gredients is an investment in a bold social experiment, a nod to innovation, a vote (with your wallet) for a better future – a future with a viable and economically sustainable local food system. We’re looking for more adopters and more champions of our cause because we are so close to proving this really is possible. Just a few hundred more Austinites deciding to divert more of their grocery dollars to our shop would go a long way in ensuring an even more successful second year. Though our Indiegogo financing campaign ended long ago, we continue to be a crowd-funded, community-supported venture. Are you in?