The standard of food we have come to accept is shocking says Jeremy Hibbert-Garibaldi, CEO of newly found company Caprera which aims to distribute quality food from great producers around the UK.
Hibbert Garibaldi,whose great-great-grandfather was the Italian patrior and fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi explains in this interview with Food and Wine Gazette that he created a true network and will be telling stories about their producers on the site.
Although the intention for the time being is to establish themselves in the UK, the ultimate aim is to make good food accessible and change the way people eat.
With a law background and after having worked as a forensic investigator for many years he has always dreamed of setting up his own business and he recalls how as a child he would watch his father make pesto from scratch. “I still remember him saying that the difference between his pesto and the store-bought version what that you could taste the love in one and the laziness in the other.”
Here is the story behind this new online food store.
Why Caprera? What led to the idea?
The idea for Caprera is something that had been with me for some time. As a child, I would watch my father loving make pesto from scratch following an age-old family recipe. He used to claim that the difference between his and the store-bought version was that you could taste the love in one and the laziness in the other. I do think that there is something to this. The standard quality of food we have come to accept is shocking, especially when there are so many great producers across the UK.
As for the name, ‘Caprera’, it’s the name of a small island off the coast of Sardinia, Italy. It’s where Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian patriot and fighter had lived – he also happens to be my great-great-grandfather.
When did you decide to launch the business?
We launched Caprera in September 2016 after several months of beta testing. This testing period was very important for us as it helped us to clearly identify the issues with the current food supply chain, and to understand how to best reach our target market. This enabled us to properly refine our offer and work out the best logistics configuration possible to ensure that everything was in place for our launch.
You were working in different fields before you actually decided to launch the business. Was it always your dream to be set up the business? How did you pursue it?
I have a law background and worked for years as a forensic investigator, focusing mainly on white-collar crime and corruption in Africa. It also involved working for few years as a consultant for a big food retail company. But yes, I have of course always dreamed of setting up this business!
I knew that there was a market for what we wanted to do, but we needed to work out the best way to actually make it work. It was very much about building a central place where we could bring together great producers and consumers in one place. So we had a great idea, and it was just about putting it in motion and starting the testing process. The early investment came from ‘love funding’ from family and relatives but we are also actively pursuing investment in order to grow the business.
What has been the response to Caprera so far?
The feedback that we have had from people has all been incredibly positive. The telling sign is that a fair number of the orders are from recurrent customers – people who have experienced firsthand just how simple and convenient our service is, who have tasted our products for themselves, and were impressed enough to come back again.
What differentiates Caprera from other online food retailers?
Unlike other online food retailers, we don’t exist just to facilitate individual transactions between a customer and a specific producer. We have a single delivery system, which means that a user can order various products from multiple producers, wherever they may be in the UK, but receive it all in one simple and convenient delivery.
Also, we operate as a true network, and not simply as a retail outlet. We dedicate ourselves to telling the stories about our producers. On our site, users can discover not just where their food has come from, but the people and the process that went into making it, through in-depth biographies, exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes videos.
Do you want to scale the business outside of the UK?
We aim first and foremost to be well established in the UK, and to get to a stage where we are extremely confident about the logistics and the customer experience. We will then naturally expand as our ultimate aim is to make good food accessible and change the way people eat, a broad objective that really has no borders.
You have Italian origins. What’s your view of UK produce and do you think it needs to be more well-known outside of the UK?
UK produce has suffered a bad reputation, not least because many of us have come to accept the food sold by supermarkets as representative of ‘UK produce’, when this really shouldn’t be the case. The sort of UK produce that we should be eating and celebrating is the sort produced by independent producers, real people who know food, and who produce with nothing but the utmost love and care. Luckily, there has been something of a renaissance in UK-produced food. There are now so many great producers throughout the UK. What we need to do is to bring them altogether on one common platform and build a real network and community, through which we can redefine what is known as UK produce.
How do you source food from your producers?
Our producers deliver their products directly to our warehouse.
What is your criteria for finding suppliers?
First off, it’s all about the taste. We will never sell products that we wouldn’t feed our own families. Caprera sets high standards for all our producers, all of whom are vetted and handpicked against select criteria. This means: no use of chemicals, preservatives or artificial flavourings and colourings, no use of genetically modified organisms or seed varieties, and no use of antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. Above all, our producers have to love what they do. That way, we can be sure they take pride in what they do, and will be dedicated to creating products that are of a consistently high quality.
Do you keep inventory? How do you ensure that the food arrives to consumers fresh and on time?
We do of course keep inventory, but only a limited one as we aim to avoid wastage as far as possible. It goes without saying that we aim to ensure that every single order that goes out arrives to the customer on time, but for customers who require their order urgently, we do also provide a next-day or 48-hour delivery option. In addition, our internal software and operations system also enables us to keep track of the expiry dates of all our products. We also know precisely when orders will be shipped, and when they will reach our customers.
How do you compete with supermarkets which try to offer convenience and particularly cheap products as against products that are healthier, i.e. that make no use of chemicals, antibiotics etc.
While supermarkets continue to push convenience and cheapness, people are beginning to realise that all of this comes at a cost: a huge compromise in terms of quality. Indeed, everywhere you look now there is an increased demand for better quality food and drink but supermarkets are restricting this to certain ranges. We knew that there was always going to be an audience out there for producers who love what they do and what they make. People no longer want to settle for less and we are giving them this option.
How difficult or easy is logistics particularly in the food business?
Logistics is probably one of the most difficult parts of any business. More specifically, as we are operating in the food business, the real issue is the quality, and ensuring that the products arrive at the customer’s home in the same way they would have been if bought on the shelf of a shop. We are not doing fresh products yet, but this is one of our next steps, and while it’ll definitely add even more strain to our existing logistics, we always love a good challenge!
Do you want to also start selling fresh products?
Yes, we absolutely do. We’re always looking to expand our network of independent producers, and we’re currently in talks with some incredible producers of fresh products, everything from meat to vegetables.
We want to be a one-stop shop for our customers, so we are constantly looking to close up any gaps in our product range.
The objective is really to offer a complete shopping experience. We don’t want to focus just on vegetables from farms, or, to swing to the other end of the spectrum, exclusively on small batch artisan goods. Instead, we want to offer the whole range of products you would expect when going to a supermarket. ‘Good food’ should encompass a full range of products, including fresh products.
What’s your ultimate objective for Caprera?
The ethos of the company is to make good food accessible and this is something we would ultimately like to do globally. Once we are fully established in the UK and extremely confident about the whole logistics and business model, we will expand abroad. Operating on an international scale will allow us to create links and interactions between people not just regionally, but globally. After all, food has this amazing ability to bring people together, and it is my greatest hope that this will go some way in making our world slightly more peaceful and less divided.
Where do you see Caprera in 5 years time?
It would be great to have got Caprera to the scale where we are able to really help producers of quality foods business grow significantly.
As I said the ethos of the company is to make good food accessible and the best way for us to do that is to grow to a point where we are able to support producers who are truly passionate about what they are doing.
Was it difficult to convince suppliers to join the platform?
When you find producers who share the same ethos, it isn’t difficult to convince them to join the platform. They take pride in being part of a network of like-minded people. In fact, we have a great relationship with all the producers we work with and part of this is down to the fact that we take a considerably smaller percentage than supermarkets. Also, producers really appreciate the fact that we are all about celebrating their individuality and independence, be this through the biographies, interviews and video footage we provide, or getting them more visibility.