After a lot of consideration and with bittersweet feelings, I have decided to put Peapod aside for a while. Thanks for coming on this amazing journey with me. It’s been truly fun.
In case you’re wondering what’s been going on in the background, here’s a short update.
With the start of the Covid pandemic last year, Peapod took a hard hit. It was disappointing to close down our stand at the farmers market, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I considered some different options for pivoting the business. However, the timing didn’t seem quite right for a couple of reasons. In addition to the uncertainty of the pandemic, James and I welcomed our baby daughter into the world last year. She is amazing, and I took some time to be exclusively with her.
Professionally, when I am not running Peapod, I am a structural engineer. I have taken on a new position in structural engineering that is challenging and fun, and I am excited to devote my full energy to it.
Peapod is still very much alive in my thoughts and interests. It’s exciting to think how its spirit might show up again in the future.
The Grossmarkt Stuttgart services not only Stuttgart but also a radius of 300km around Stuttgart too, feeding around 12 million people in the region. Only food businesses with a permit are allowed to shop there. The prices are low, and everything is sold in bulk. It’s a gigantic wholesale grocery store just for the middlemen.
The Grossmarkt opens at 2:30am every morning. It’s packed with trucks, people, and pallets piled high with food. I went by foot, and I could barely navigate the crammed, narrow alleys.
It’s almost like a small village lined with warehouses. Each of the warehouses carries a different type of product, usually either vegetables, fruit, or flowers, but sometimes meat or specialty items as well. Space within the warehouses is rented to individual distributors, and these distributors sell food from farms located all over the world.
I have so many questions about the food supply chain! I’ll keep you posted on my findings.
There’s a neat organization here in Stuttgart called Tafel (Schwäbische Tafel Stuttgart). It collects food which would otherwise be headed for the garbage can and makes it available to people in need. Its stores offer things like like day-old bread, products nearing their expiration dates, or wilted produce, all for deeply discounted prices. Whole loaves of bread which might sell for 3 Euros in the bakery are available for less than 50 cents!
The organization is fueled by volunteers and donations. Volunteers take vans to surrounding bakeries and grocery stores, and they bring back heaps of food which the stores can no longer sell. More volunteers sort through the heaps of food. Large bins go out almost immediately onto the shelves to feed grateful customers.
When the vegetable stand at the farmers market mentioned that they donate their leftover produce to Tafel each week, it piqued my interest. This was the second time the name was mentioned to me in the last months, and the concept had somehow stuck. So I took a trip to our local Tafel store. It turns out their work is as neat as it sounds, and they are thankful to anyone willing to donate some time to this helpful and rewarding cause.
When I visited Stuttgart almost exactly eight years ago, the gutters were overflowing with garbage and streamers. Since everything was weird and European, I just assumed this was probably normal too.
After eight years of living here, the weird European things now feel a lot like home. So when I find the streets full of garbage and streamers, it can only mean one thing: Fasching is here! Fasching is the German celebration of Karneval. Everyone dresses up in costumes, drinks a lot, binges on jelly donuts, and goes to parades.
Costumes, drunkenness, jelly donuts, and parades are all some of my least favorite things. However, Fasching has a special place in my memory because it reminds me that another year has passed since the beginning of this weird adventure in Germany.
During the slower times at the farmers market, I sometimes chat with the people running the neighboring stands. I like hearing about their businesses.
This past weekend, I learned how many typical vegetable stands run their businesses. It was fascinating!
For readers not familiar with German farmers markets, these vegetable stands appear at basically every farmers market in every German city. They have big plastic bins with colorful, carefully arranged produce which usually looks fresh and enticing. Customers are willing to pay a premium for this produce.
It’s not uncommon for people to say things like, “I buy my produce at the farmers market because the quality is just so much better than at the grocery store.”
I had never specifically inquired about the sourcing or distribution of the produce. I just assumed it must be somehow superior. Otherwise, why would people pay more? Maybe it was regional? Maybe it was sold directly from the farm to the customers? Maybe it was organically grown?
It turns out that the produce sold at the farmers market is purchased from large distributors. It comes from countries all over the world, and because of the supply chain, it’s probably not particularly fresh. After buying in bulk from distributors, the people running the stands arrange their merchandise nicely and then mark up the price for a nice profit.
It sounds exactly the same as a normal grocery store!
This just doesn’t make any sense. Why do people pay more for produce at the farmers market? They’re certainly not all being tricked? Certainly not thrifty, southern Germans who pride themselves on buying things of high quality? Somebody please help me understand!
Our line of Knacks Green Beans is now available in our online shop. We have two flavors. Check them out!
The Knacks made their debut yesterday at the farmers market at Bihlplatz. The feedback from customers was overwhelmingly positive, and we even sold out of the chili flavor!
Earlier that morning, while I was hauling a cart full of Peapod stuff through the dark streets, onto the U-bahn, and over to the farmers market, I have to admit that I had my doubts. But starting Peapod has been a series of exercises in pushing through doubts. So I pushed through again, and what a pleasant surprise it was.
The Peapod test kitchen has been cooking up a storm. After many months of experimenting, tasting, and refining, we’re ready to share a new line with you!
Over the next few weeks, we will introduce a spiced, crispy, delicious, chip-like snack made from green beans. They will be available in a few different flavors. One of my favorites is coated in coconut oil and then salted and spiced.
We worked hard to add this option to our lineup. It wasn’t easy finding a suitable vegetable and developing recipes which met all of the tough criteria.
One big obstacle was the seasonality of produce. Not only does price fluctuate a lot with season, but the quality of the product in the off-season is often far inferior to the quality in-season. Maybe in the summertime we will share some of our recipes with tomatoes and strawberries. In the wintertime they’re just not as delicious.
Another big obstacle was the handling of the produce. Cooking for family and friends is quite different from producing food at scale. We needed a vegetable which was production-friendly through all steps of preparation, from cleaning to dehydration to packaging. Green beans fared well.
We’re putting the finishing touches on packaging and labeling. You’ll find the green beans in our online store soon.