Fresh City expands delivery capabilities with purchase of Mama Earth

The transaction, according to the company, creates the largest organic grocer in Ontario.

Fresh-City-takeoverIndependent grocer Fresh City Farms is buying organic food subscription service Mama Earth Organics.

Founded in 2007, Toronto’s Mama Earth Organics offers organic produce, sustainable seafood, ethically raised meat, pantry staples and chef-made meals through a weekly subscription service. All of its food is seasonal and locally sourced from over 130 farms to lessen its environmental impact. Its 10,000 members are spread between more than a dozen urban centres in Ontario, delivering as far south as London and as far north as Barrie and Peterborough.

In a LinkedIn post, Fresh City Farms’ chief transformation officer Jenn Hay shared that she has been paying close attention to Mama Earth since joining Fresh City in 2018, as the brand has been its “primary competitor for a decade.”

The combined company will own and operate several brands, including eight retail locations between the Fresh City Farms, The Healthy Butcher and Mabel’s Bakery banners, the latter two of which were both acquired by Fresh City Farms in 2019. Mama Earth will remain its own distinct brand as well.

The company says the acquisition will provide more variety for customers looking for local and sustainable options, and that it will create the largest organic retailer in Ontario, with almost 80% of its revenues coming from online sales. Mama Earth’s CEO Mary Graham will become Fresh City’s president following the transaction. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While Fresh City Farms and its other banners started as local bricks-and-mortar grocers, it has been working to meet demand for delivery and ecommerce options among its customer base – something the digital-first Mama Earth helps accelerate. As Hay previously told strategy, when it comes to keeping up with pandemic trends, delivery is now table stakes for grocers, and it’s trying to make it easier for customers to shop with Fresh City, as well as up the convenience factor, especially with the mainstreaming of organic produce. 

According to Hay, consumer expectations are higher than ever and big players have caught up with delivery and organic. During lockdowns, Hays also told strategy that Fresh City experienced strong growth in the prepared foods category, another area where Mama Earth could add to its capabilities.

In 2021, Mama Earth Organics, with help from agency The Garden, launched an awareness campaign in the GTA, an attempt to entice big banner buyers to trial its local and sustainable DTC groceries and prepared meals.

The acquisition also builds on September’s announcement that Fresh City Farms had received an undisclosed amount of new funding from a group of investors that included the Telus Pollinator Fund for Good to help Fresh City expand services to include wider product assortment, improved online experience and faster delivery.