Specialty Food Magazine

Winter 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1061591

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Page 34 of 127

W hat if local blackberries and blueberries were available year-round at your neighborhood grocer? Frozen, of course, but harvested at peak ripeness by a farmer down the road, not in Ecuador or Chile. The price wouldn't be out of reach either. That was the vision of Patrick Mateer, 25, the CEO of Seal the Seasons. He founded the company in 2014 while he was still in college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in political science and economics. From working at a fresh food distributor and a farmers market, he noted a disconnect. "I saw how the local produce went over so well, the benefits for consumers— higher quality, taste, nutrition—but it was seasonal, hard to do year-round, often expensive, and inconvenient," he says. "I wanted to eliminate the barriers, reduce food waste, and maximize crop yields by partnering with family farms and larger, mid-size farms to make it really easy for grocery stores to buy local." Today, more than 3,000 outlets in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes, and Pacific Southwest carry the Seal the Seasons brand in their freezer sections. Previously, small farmers sold their excess or damaged fruit at a steep discount or not at all. Essentially, Seal the Seasons has provided local growers with a 52-week mar- ket for perishable berries as well as peaches, apples, and cherries. In each region, a partner-farmer's image appears on the packaging. For more specific traceability, the company's website allows consumers to type in a lot code to see exactly where the fruit came from. Technology also helps monitor quality, inventory, and distribution. Affordability is a primary focus, not organic certification or cosmetic beauty. Fruit can be marred by hail, excessive rain, or sun. "When it's frozen and you blend it up in a smoothie, you care less if it's blemished," Mateer says. He added that grocers in food deserts are given a break so low-income consumers are more able to access healthy food. Seal the Seasons generated more than $1 million last year, says Mateer, who has nine employees. Teams travel around the country to inspect participating farms, looking at groundwater reports, and making sure food safety and fair labor practices are met. Farm-to-freezer is just the start. "Our 10-year vision," Mateer says, "is to make local food available in every aisle in the grocery store." Patrick Mateer, Seal the Seasons VISION — 2014 Patrick Mateer co-founds Seal the Seasons while participating in the University of North Carolina's social entrepreneurship program. — 2015 Seal the Seasons wins $50,000 SECU (State Employees Credit Union) Emerging Issue Prize for Innovation; Mateer graduates from college. — 2016 First major grocer, Harris Teeter, starts stocking Seal the Seasons' flash- frozen local produce, followed by Whole Foods in Virginia and the Carolinas. — 2018 Expands footprint to the Northeast, Great Lakes, Pacific Northwest, and Pacific Southwest; Mateer named one of Forbes' top 30 social entrepreneurs under 30 years old; raised $1.8 million in private equity offering. HIGHLIGHTS Julie Besonen writes for the New York Times and is a restaurant columnist for nycgo.com 32 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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