Local food groups offer consumers an opportunity to obtain locally produced food at regular intervals. This is why the popularity of Reko food groups has grown by thousands of per cent in a year.
The popularity of Reko local food groups has exploded in the space of a few months. The numbers sound almost unimaginably high. Growth was 3,000 per cent in a year and in January alone there were 5,500 new members. The popularity does not surprise the man who invented the model, Thomas Snellman.
– The reason for its popularity is that it’s free for everyone. Joining a local food group doesn’t cost the producer or the consumer anything. No-one gets the feeling that someone is making lots of money out of this, Snellman says.
The first Reko local food group was founded in Pietarsaari eighteen months ago. It all started in France, where Snellman was visiting a friend and found out about the Amap system which works along the same lines. It made a big impact on Snellman and he decided that he would try to launch something similar when he returned to Finland. In Finland, Snellman talked about his idea in the organic project he was involved in and got the others keen on the idea too.
– We put an ad in the local paper and about 50 people turned up to the first meeting. Everyone was interested in joining. We got three times more volunteers coming to the work group than we needed, Snellman says.
Almost 50 groups across Finland
The idea behind the Reko local food groups is simple: The consumer buys products directly from producer without any go-betweens. For the first eighteen months, there were two groups, in Pietarsaari and Vaasa. Now there are almost 50 groups and 24,000 consumers.
– At the start, getting in touch with producers was challenging. There was nothing similar around and they just had to trust me. That meant that to begin with, it was important for us to sign written contracts for two months. Once things started rolling, we were able to give up the contracts and the producers knew that consumers would buy their produce, Snellman says.
In a year, Reko has grown twelve-fold. Producers benefit from the fact that their produce is ordered in advance and sold quickly. There is less waste and they feel that their work is valued. Snellman believes this is one of the reasons for success. Not to mention the fact that consumers easily obtain products that have been produced locally.
Important role of social media
Local food groups have become so popular that the biggest problem according to Snellman will be a lack of producers. Demand is growing all the time. Social media plays an important role in using the groups and it would be almost impossible for producers to be involved without Facebook.
– In the future, some powerful body could want to restrict the system. But whether or not they would succeed is a different matter. We meet all the criteria required of us, so the situation at the moment isn’t breaking the law in any respect, Snellman says.
Anyone can set up a group and there are clear instructions for doing so on the website. Snellman believes that in the future, groups will be set up in more places than before. He isn’t willing to take all the credit, however, but praises his great background teams, particularly Ann-Sofi Ljungqvist, Jonas Harald and Eeva Ylinen, who helped him rethink the idea and bring it into being.
– Once it starts rolling, it keeps on going. This is why it’s so easy.
Text: Saara Kärki
Photos: Jonas Harald