The Ag E-Commerce Drama

The battle at the intersection of ag retail and e-commerce has been heating up. And now it’s boiling over into the courts.

In early January, an Illinois farm family filed suit against a who’s who of crop input manufacturers, distributors, and retailers claiming collusion. Those in the hot seat include Bayer, Winfield, CHS, Nutrien, and many other notable farm input giants.

The key claim: The ag defendants banded together and boycotted online sales platforms, like Farmers Business Network, to avoid price transparency and lock in high prices with cozy profit margins.

Where this goes: E-commerce drama and the ag input stratosphere are old pals. Time will tell where this most recent litigation will land.

The Digital Meat Case

The e-commerce meat biz is busy.

Just last week, Canadian meat subscription service truLOCAL, the country’s 14th fastest growing startup, was acquired. And in 2020, U.S.-based peers like ButcherBox and Omaha Steaks saw year-over-year growth ranging from 138% to 300%. Even Beyond Meat, the alt-meat powerhouse, set up its direct-to-consumer shop during the pandemic.

And it’s only the beginning.

While direct-to-consumer companies often snag the headlines, most animal protein sales are still made at the grocery store. But even those transactions are trending online. Before COVID-19, 19% of Americans had purchased groceries online. That number more than doubled to 40% by May.

And beef wants its share of the action.

Sign of the times: The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association signed a partnership with digital shopper marketing platform Chicory to boost beef’s e-profile.

Chicory’s Digital Shopping Aisle serves up recipes and ads to shoppers on the web. From there, consumers are driven to the ‘digital meat case’, where they can plop steak, roast, or ground beef into their digital basket for checkout. A quick pickup at the nearest Kroger, Walmart, or Albertsons is all that’s left to do.

Where this goes: The global pandemic pressured the meat value chain in numerous ways. But by putting the pedal to the metal on e-commerce tools and subscription service systems, the industry is setting itself up for long-term success. Expect to see more in this space sooner rather than later.