From My Dorm Room to Shark Tank

by admin | April 27, 2017 11:11 am

Evan Lutz is the  CEO and Co-Founder of Hungry Harvest. Evan had always dreamt of becoming a social entrepreneur, with a dream of changing the food system. With  six billion pounds of produce going to waste every year and 50 million people hungry in the US Evan was encouraged to create a company that would change that, and that’s when Hungry Harvest[1] was born. What started out of his dorm basement in University of Maryland, quickly grew thanks to a tremendous amount of hard work and perseverance. Then, in season 7 of Shark Tank scored a deal with Robert Herjavec. I had a chance to catch a few minutes with Evan and hear what the company is up to now. Here’s what they’re up to:


 Jay: Back in season 7 of Shark Tank you scored a deal with Robert Herjavec for your company, Hungry Harvest, which brings delicious fruits and veggies delivered directly to your customers. How does your system work?

Evan: We work directly with farmers all down the east coast who are left with excess produce which they can’t sell. Our customers sign up on a subscription basis for a specific amount of fruits and veggies. Depending on the amount of orders we have each week, is exactly how much they deliver directly to us. We have no overhead costs and we know exactly how much inventory we need. Once the produce arrives, we deliver it directly to our customers through our own independent contractors. Before we brought this opportunity to these farmers, they were literally throwing all of it to the garbage or leaving it for the compost, so it’s 100% profit for them. We work directly with different freight services that the farmers use to get the produce to our warehouses and we handle everything from there.
Jay: How do consumers make their orders?

Evan: Our business is built on a subscription basis, where customers can sign up to receive fresh produce delivered directly to their door. What’s unique about our model is the fact that you can always modify your subscription at any time. You have the ability to choose if you’d like to receive a weekly or bi-weekly supply of fruits and veggies. If at any point you decide to cancel, you can do so at any time with no charge.

Jay: The concept is brilliant, where did you get the idea?

Evan: Back in my college days I worked for an organization called Food Recovery Network. Their mission is to save all the food in dining halls that was going straight to the garbage. I set up a stand in my dorm room to start selling surplus fruits and veggies that were unable to be sold due to logistics inefficiencies or aesthetic imperfections. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fruit, and it was all just being thrown out. After a little while, I had between 500-600 customers and I quickly understood that people were very willing to pay a price for surplus fruits and vegetables. If we had enough surplus to feed 500 college students, I knew that the farmers must have tons of it. After extended research and many phone calls I set out on a mission to stop all that food from going to garbage and sell them at a lower price than you’d pay in the supermarket. At that point Hungry Harvest was born in May of 2014.

Jay: You’ve tapped into an incredible opportunity. Why do the farmers themselves throw perfectly good fruit to the garbage?

Evan: The farmers can’t sell them because the stores won’t sell them, and it’s an incredible concept that is so revealing to how much presentation affects sales. Next time you’re in any supermarket you’ll notice that all the fruits and vegetables are displayed beautifully. They’re all around the same size and have a similar look. If the store notices one that looks a little funny, has a couple of bruises or even if one is a lot smaller or larger than the others they’ll toss it to the garbage. In order for stores to maximize their sales they need to make a beautiful presentation; each fruit is literally part of their sales team! Fruits that don’t sell are fired. This is precisely why our online subscription model works and why it would never work in a store.

Jay: To your point about having a subscription based model, what are some of the ways you keep that growing?

Evan: Great question and like everything else, if you can’t innovate your business is going to die. We’re constantly spreading our mission on social media and more importantly engaging with our audience. Customers often send in pictures when they open their boxes and we come up with incentives to keep it exciting. We’ve been moving into other areas like adding berries and allowing customers to customize their orders. I think Amazon prime has made buying everything online a commonality for so many people that we’ve been able to tap into that trend especially with millennials. The grocery market is an amazing $650 BILLION a year with food delivery at only $18 Billion a year, so there’s tremendous room for growth.

Jay: What are some of your plans to grow the business moving forward?

Evan: What’s great about running Hungry Harvest is that I leave work every day knowing that I’ve taken a tremendous amount of nourishing food which would have been sent to the garbage and is now on people’s plates. Did you know that  a startling 6 BILLION pounds of fruits and veggies are thrown out each year?! That’s enough to fill 4 entire football stadiums from top to bottom. Those numbers are staggering. At this point we sell 50k pounds of produce each week and so as our business grows we know we’re diminishing the amount of veggies that are going to waste, which is in itself very fulfilling. Additionally, we’re currently delivering to Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and Washington DC. We’re finalizing plans that will expand our reach to New York and Pittsburgh which we hope will then get us to reach as far as Miami as well as Atlanta. Our main warehouse in currently located in Maryland and we’re going to add another warehouse in a way that will allow us to continue to execute efficiently. We’re just getting started and we’re excited to spread this across America.


Evan LutzEvan Lutz is the CEO and Co-Founder of Hungry Harvest. My whole life, I’ve dreamt of becoming a social entrepreneur, with a dream of changing the food system. My senior year at the University of Maryland, Hungry Harvest was born in my dorm basement. We began delivering to our first 30 customers, 15 of which were free trials, in June 2014. The beginning was excruciatingly difficult, as we knocked on doors in the sweltering DC summer desperately trying to convince anyone to get a free trial. The problem was that nobody knew what ‘ugly produce’ was at the time. This company was in danger of failure at least two times when we had less than $200 in our bank account. We worked 18 hour days to get our customers the right orders. We had doors slammed in our face, and investors laugh at us. In those tough times, the reminder of six billion pounds of produce going to waste and 50 million people hungry in the US encouraged us to persevere along our journey. We currently have a team of 14, with a HQ located in City Garage, Baltimore. Everything we do is driven with the belief that every person has the right to eat healthy, and every fruit and veggie grown deserves to get eaten.

 

 

Endnotes:
  1. Hungry Harvest: http://www.hungryharvest.net/

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