SPUD goes public and changes name

Founder Peter van Stolk shares what’s next for the sustainability-focused food-tech company

Vancouver-based Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD) has changed its name to Freshlocal Solutions upon going public.

SPUD conducted a reverse takeover of TSXV-traded Rainy Hollow Ventures in a going public transaction that was completed earlier this month. The newly named entity, Freshlocal Solutions Inc., is trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

Freshlocal Solutions is now the parent company of the former SPUD’s core brands including Spud.ca, which delivers fresh, organic, local produce and groceries in markets in B.C. and Alberta; brick-and-mortar retailers Blush Lane Organic Market and Be Fresh Market/Café; and FoodX Technologies, which provides an eGrocery Management Solution (eGMS) software platform for retailers large and small, including Belgium-based Carrefour Group and Vancouver’s Meridian Farm Market.

In going public, Freshlocal Solutions can build on its success both in Canada and globally. “As a Canadian food-tech company, we have the opportunity to service our customers in Western Canada with our [grocery] businesses and we have the opportunity to service large retailers like we’re doing in Europe and globally with our software that we developed,” said Peter van Stolk, CEO of Freshlocal Solutions, in an interview with Canadian Grocer. “When you look at the market opportunity for our software, it’s global. We see it as a big opportunity for the company, as well as continuing to learn more environmental and eco-friendly ways to service our customers, and then taking those learnings globally.”

Founded as Small Potatoes Urban Delivery in 1997, the company got its start delivering fresh, local, organic groceries to customers in the Vancouver area, through Spud.ca. Van Stolk, who founded Jones Soda in 1997 and left the company after 10 years, purchased SPUD in 2010. He changed the name to Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery, and changed the direction of the company. His mission was to use innovation and technology to create sustainable food systems at every stage of the business.

For example, Spud.ca keeps food waste to a minimum through things like predictive ordering and better inventory control and selling ‘imperfect produce. To reduce emissions from vehicles, Spud.ca uses delivery route optimization software so delivery trucks take the shortest route possible, and uses electric bicycles for deliveries in urban centres.

As being more environmentally conscious gains traction with consumers, van Stolk said the company would be focused even more on sustainability initiatives. “We think it’s not only good for the planet, but also good for customer appreciation and customer attraction, meaning customers want to be part of the solution,” he said.

“Personally, as a father and as someone who’s got to leave this planet to someone else, I’m really excited about that. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I won’t be here for my grandkids when they’re my age, so we’ve got to leave behind [a planet] that [future generations] can live in. We’re really adamant that food plays a very significant role in climate change, so we want to be that leader and we want to push the boundaries.”

On the tech side, the plan is to add new global markets and North American markets to the FoodX platform, as well as adding new technology to its suite of products.

Asked about the name change to Freshlocal Solutions, van Stolk noted the company’s beginnings in fresh produce. “Fresh is part of our DNA... and as we look forward to the consumption patterns of the consumer in the future, we think it’s going to be more fresh, healthier and less preservatives.” And for local, van Stolk said it’s something the company truly believes in. “When you add the two words together, Freshlocal, you get something that is really powerful to us and in line with our mission statement.”

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