Ontario’s Local Food Revolution Gets Boost with New OntarioFresh Platform


November 29, 2018


Greenbelt Fund launches new and improved Ontariofresh.ca with technology partner Local Line

Ontario’s largest local food network connecting buyers, sellers and processors has undergone a major upgrade. The Greenbelt Fund has launched the upgraded Ontariofresh.ca platform with improved functionality and design – and the platform continues to be free, as always.

Ontariofresh.ca is an online marketplace where Ontario’s farmers and producers can market their products to a range of buyers. The platform has over 2,500 members from across Ontario, representing businesses at every point on the local food value chain, including buyers, sellers, processors and service providers.

Buyers looking to increase local food offerings can shop with confidence on Ontariofresh.ca because all products on the platform are Ontario grown-and-raised from start to finish, and processed or prepared foods must contain 80% Ontario ingredients by volume.

The new features members can expect on Ontariofresh.ca include a shipping calculator that compares shipping rates from various distributors in one place and new ‘Buy Local’ networks to increase member visibility and allow for cross-promotion.

“The new Ontariofresh platform brings our members even more functionality on Ontario’s largest online marketplace for local food,” said Megan Hunter, Communications and Program Manager at the Greenbelt Fund. “Members can connect more easily and use the shipping tool to get their local food onto Ontarian’s plates more quickly, and the platform continues to be completely free.”

“The Greenbelt Fund has invested in every aspect of our local food system, and Ontariofresh is part of that service to Ontario’s primary producers,” said Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund. “Increasing markets for local food across Ontario is good for rural economies, creates new jobs, and keeps our dollars in Ontario.”

Local Line is an easy-to-use e-commerce and logistics platform that helps food suppliers perform direct sales, increase their orders and save time on order fulfillment. Their white-label e-commerce, CRM, and inventory modules enable suppliers to control their brand and grow their business on their terms. Local Line was the ideal technology partner for The Greenbelt Fund when upgrading Ontariofresh.ca, as they bring unique industry and technical experience to the table. The Greenbelt Fund and Local Line have worked together over the past year to rebuild the platform, significantly improving its design and functionality.

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Can Local Line Help Your Direct-to-Consumer Food Business?




It’s becoming more and more popular for consumers and chefs to source food from local farmers and suppliers. Because of this, companies like Local Line have formed as a kind of go-between, bringing farmers and customers together. If you own a direct-to-consumer food business, using a service like Local Line is a great way to bring in new customers and boost your overall sales. But before you get started, you should weigh the pros and cons of the service to see if it’s really the right option for you.

Diversify Your Farming Income

It’s really important for farmers to diversify their income. For many, this means doing things like hosting dinners and events at their farm to bring in extra cash and partnering with restaurants. But what if you don’t have time to visit restaurants to see if they’re interested in sourcing food from you?

This is where Local Line could come in handy. The company lets you create your own online store that showcases the fresh food you have available to sell and the price. Your customers, whether they’re individuals or restaurants, can use the system to order food online. Once the order is placed, you simply deliver the goods.

Charge Restaurants and Individuals Different Prices

When you use a service like Local Line, you have the ability to create online catalogues that show your current inventory. All of your products are displayed with prices, and you can have multiple catalogues. Each catalogue you create is private. This means your customers only see the prices you want them to see.

Using this feature, you can create separate catalogues with different pricing for individual customers and restaurants. This way you can give restaurants discounted prices when they buy in bulk without upsetting individual customers who might accidentally come across a catalogue with lower prices displayed. Also, when your customers view specific products in your catalogue, you see it in real time. You can use this feature to promote high-interest items by creating an occasional “sale” catalogue.

Attract New Customers

One of the biggest benefits about using a service like Local Line is the access you get to the company’s existing customer base. When customers search for locally sourced food in your area, they’re able to view your company information and your public inventory catalogue. If they want, they can place a new order online or contact you for more information about your company. Just being visible in the app search engine makes it easy to connect with chefs, nearby restaurants, and local residents looking for fresh food.

Set Delivery Options

When you use Local Line, you’re responsible for delivering all of your orders. This means before you start using the service, you should have a plan in place that allows you to keep up with your deliveries. Some things to consider include whether you need to hire a delivery driver, the type of delivery schedule, and if your current vehicle can handle delivery work.

The service Local Line offers is a great option for business owners who want to attract new clients and increase sales. But it’s also a useful tool for farmers with an existing customer base because it lets you process orders online.

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4 Ways to Forecast Your Growth Properly

A common mistake we see amongst food suppliers looking to grow their businesses is inaccurately forecasting their costs and profits. Let’s end this today. Here are four ways to start accurately forecasting in your business:

Know your margins

This should be the first step in any business. Determine how much you need to break-even and how to make it a profit. Knowing these numbers will help you determine which sales channels you should target, what your quota should be, and when it’s the right time to offer other services such as delivery and discounts to your customers.

Set accurate delivery costs

Delivery can be a make or break it point in your business. Make sure you know exactly how much delivery costs per hour and how to calculate it accurately. If you’re guessing these costs, there is a high chance that you are losing money. To help you out, we created this post and a calculator that does this for you.

Determine your minimum order value

After you’ve determined your delivery costs, you have to set a minimum order value to offer delivery. You don’t want to lose money when offering a service to your customers – instead you should profit. This post outlines how to set this value along with a calculator. All you have to do is fill in the blanks!

The Power of Pricing

Pricing is an aspect of your business you should never neglect. Slight increasing in prices can have a great impact on your annual profits. For example, a price increase of 5% can increase profits by 6%! Do the math and figure out exactly how much you can increase your profits with slight price increases. Need help? Fill out the form below to get a copy of our Price Increase Calculator:

Get your numbers straight and start growing your business today! 


5 Tips for Getting More Customers Today

If you looking to expand your customer base, here are five tips for getting more customers:

Sell with Neighbours

If you only sell produce, that’s ok, but when trying to target new customers, creating more of a “one-stop-shop” for their local food needs will increase the likelihood that you get orders. Think of this as like your own online farmers market! Connect with other producers to set up co-selling and co-delivery with neighbours. This is a great way to share costs and increase sales. For more on how you can make this happen, here is an example of farmers in Northern Ontario who used Local Line to set this up.

Know Your Customers

The best way to get more customers is to know who you are selling to. One of the best ways we’ve seen suppliers increase their sales is selling and promoting at locations that play into a customer lifestyle. For example, many food suppliers live by the philosophy that food is linked to health and wellbeing, such as raising livestock in pastured conditions or using organic production methods. This philosophy resonates with their customer base – therefore selling at events or locations that are hubs for like-minded people will increase their likelihood for sale. Determine what type of customers need your products and understand their ways. Where do they shop? Where they do frequent? Determine this and meet them halfway. For example, we’ve had many pasture raised meat suppliers find success selling to independent gyms, crossfit and yoga studios.

Invest in Your Online Presence

Whether it’s investing time or money, it is essential to invest in your online presence. The future of local food is online. Being online has many benefits such as decreasing chance of lost orders, reaching more customers, and increasing the professionality of your business. Everyone is online, including your customers, therefore you should be too. If you have an online store and presence that is modern, easy to use and professional, not only will you see some immediate results, but you’ll thank yourself long term when your brand grows.

Create a Referral Program

This is a big one. Word of mouth is extremely important in the food industry. Your customer base is bound to have friends that would love your products too. You should be tapping into your existing customer network to generate new leads. So how do you ensure that customers will refer you to friends on your behalf? This post gives you 6 steps to creating your own referral program.

Referring a friend is a win-win for everyone. Your existing customer is rewarded for their loyalty by receiving a discounted price. Your new customer is learning about your business from the most trusted source of marketing: word of mouth. And, most importantly, your business just earned a new customer from an existing one!

Use a Variety of Marketing Platforms

In addition to using a referral program, use various different marketing platforms. Use social media to promote your brand and showcase your products. Instagram can be a great tool to show pictures of your farm, production and team for your customer base to get a sense of who is growing their food and what sets your production apart from the competition. Attend food shows and festivals to make connections within the industry and create relationships with chefs and retailers. Hang up promotional material at customer hotspots, such as gyms, farmers markets, local shops, etc. There are many different methods to promote your business. Using a variety will increase the likelihood the material reaches your audience.

What your customers want from their shopping experience!

Your customers are your business’ lifeline – therefore it’s your duty to give them what they want to ensure their loyalty. Getting to know who your customers are and what they want from their shopping experience is a recipe for success. So what do they want, and how are you going to give it to them?

After working with many food suppliers and their customer bases, here is what we found is important to many customers:

Customer reviews

As mentioned in various different articles, food is personal and word of mouth is a very, very powerful tool. People want to hear from others why they loved your products and why they picked you instead of another supplier. You have the power to give this information – provide customer reviews on your website, online store or social media platforms. In a study conducted by Bazaarvoice network, they found that review volume shows a positive correlation with increased orders – in other words, customer reviews work! In order to get this started, ask some of your customers if they would like to write a review for you.

Up to date and easy to use ordering software

Customers want an easy to use and modern online store to visit. Many food suppliers use out of date and cryptic ordering methods that it is harder on them and their customers. Give your customer base a uniform, beautiful online store that showcases your products and is simple to use! There is a higher chance of abandonment before purchase if your system is slow, ancient and/or confusing. Don’t let this be you.

Giving back to reliable customers

Customers want to be appreciated. Reward your customers that have bought from you for a long time. Offer discounts after they spend “x” dollars, free shipping if they purchase over a certain threshold, or store credit when referring a friend. All of these methods are a way to show those reliable customers that sticking with you was worth it!

Standing orders

A standing order in the food industry is an agreement or pre-purchase between supplier and customer to get a certain product every week or harvest over a season. Think of it like a subscription box with a farmer or food supplier, where on a recurring date you receive a package of fresh, local food to enjoy without having to think about placing a weekly order. This is a really nice option to have for customers, because it allows them to enjoy local food without having to take the hassle of continuously ordering. Additionally, standing orders can be really beneficial to you, because it ensures sales without having the stress of meeting a certain quota every week/month.

Deal with returned orders professionally

No business owner wants to deal with returned orders, however your customers want to know that if something does happen, there is a set return policy to resolve the situation. To get more information on how to set the best returned order practices, read this post.

Giving your customers what they want not only helps your customer base, but also helps your business.

Happy customers, happy business. 

Don’t leave your customers hanging – Standing Orders

As consumers, chefs and retailers, we love the idea of buying local because everyone knows that the local food industry supports community members, is grown by dedicated and hardworking individuals, and is often much better for us due to the use of holistic farming practices, but sometimes sourcing from the large industry seems a lot easier due to logistics and access. It’s simple –  it boils down to convenience.

At Local Line, we  make buying and selling local food easy and convenient. Our e-commerce platform provides a straightforward ordering mechanism for customers by offering services such as order and logistics management, customer communication and invoicing mechanisms for suppliers – all wrapped into one service. But we’re not done there!

This week we launched a new feature – standing orders.

A standing order is a purchase order covering a repeated delivery of goods in specified quantities, at specified prices, and according to a specified time schedule.  It is comparable to a subscription box where your customers can expect your products on the same time schedule. Standing orders are essential in food. Unlike buying clothes or other products, the relationship between food supplier and customer is continual. A standing order allows your customers to order once and continuously get your products week by week during a season.

Pre-booked sales for you, convenience for your customers.

Here are some additional benefits you can expect when you use our new standing order feature:

Save time on organizing orders

A great benefit of implementing standing orders is all that time you would save on managing your orders. If you’re a food supplier that offers a CSA program, weekly harvest box, or supply a restaurant or retailer with the same scheduled order, it’s hard to have to manage the same order every week. Standing orders allow you to automate the process and save time on tedious tasks such as order taking.

Produce to order

A standing order system allows you to pre-determine what needs to be produced. This allows you to predict what is needed and avoid under/over production. This reduces waste or lost customers due to insufficient inventory.

Create lasting relationships with customers

As mentioned previously, the relationship between buyer and supplier in the food industry is continual. Offering standing orders allow you to be able to create better partnerships with your customers and conveniently service them over a season.

Sound like something you could use? Try standing orders today with your Local Line membership for the low cost of $25/month. If you’re not yet using Local Line, click the button below to view a demo to see how Local Line can help your business.

How to make your delivery experience more memorable for your customers

The last step to making an online purchase is receiving the product. Unboxing can be very exciting. The moment a customer opens their package, it should feel the same as opening a present. To help you make that experience memorable for all your customers, here are our tips for a great delivery experience:

Delivery confirmation

After an order has been made and approved, you should confirm with your customers that it’s coming their way! A simple confirmation email or call with the estimated date and time of arrival puts confidence in your customer that their order is of importance and will be with them soon. This is a simple step, but effective.

Branding, branding and more branding

Your branding should be on everything that comes from your business. Your packaging should reflect that. Whether you use personalized boxes or have a business card inside the package, it should be clear. Uniform branding appears professional, looks great, and encourages brand recognition.

Add free samples or small gifts

This is a great way to get more out of your customers. In another blog post, we talk about the law of reciprocity – where when someone is given a free gift, they feel inclined to return the favour. In e-commerce terms, purchase a product. Adding a free sample could increase the chances of repurchase. In addition to this, free samples also give your customers a taste into what else you sell. If you recently launched a new product, add it to get more exposure. Free samples or gifts look great to a customer and can be an effective method of marketing. If samples are not feasible for your business, consider adding a discount code or coupon for their next order. This will promote repurchase and is a little easier to manage.

Write a thank you card or personal note

Food is personal, so make it personal! Take the time to write a personal note or a thank you card to a first time customer. Go a step further. Add an information card about the history behind your product or your farm. This is a great way to connect with a customer and get them hooked.

Friendly and memorable interactions

In this blog post on how to keep your current customers, the last tip is to put a face to the brand. This is an essential aspect of delivery. The interaction between customer and distributor should not be ignored. If you do your own deliveries, be organized, on time and most importantly friendly! Remember your customers names, and their orders. Customer service is an important tool and should be considered in your delivery planning. If you are using a shipping partner, be sure to use a partner that will represent your brand. Even if you did not do the delivery, the customer will associate any experience with your business. For tips on how to get started with a shipping partner and the right questions to ask, check out this blog post.

Follow up!

After a delivery has been made, the last step is to follow up. Send an email. It’s important to get feedback on the delivery and products received. If they weren’t happy you get the chance to address it before they reach out to you or even worse, become a lost customer. Add a reorder option to encourage repurchase!

Following all of these steps will help you create a delivery experience that will be memorable to your customers and help you increase the chances of reorder and referrals. Distribution can be a pain point for a lot of food suppliers. To further help you create a delivery plan that is profitable, check out this blog post.

How to save on shipping costs as a small food supplier

It’s not a secret that distribution is a pain point for a lot of food suppliers. Shipping is very expensive. To make it a little easier on you, here are some ways to save on shipping costs to get your products to your customers:

Pack small and light

The first step is to think about what you are shipping. Often, the actual packaging of the products can be bulky and heavy. This takes up more room in a vehicle and can lead to higher costs if shipping with a third party distributor. To avoid this, start by measuring your current products and then determining the average daily/weekly orders. This will help you determine the space currently used in a vehicle to get your products to your customers and if this needs to be reduced. You should only be using space that needs to be used and buy packaging that fits your products.

Determine and use your MOV

This is a popular but essential topic. A minimum order value is the lowest dollar value that you will ship to your customers. Using our calculator, you can determine how to guarantee a minimum profit per order. This calculator breaks down the cost on the road, margins and break even point, target profit, and average deliveries per hour to determine your business’ unique MOV. After determining your MOV, implement it! Only offer delivery to customers who meet that bracket, otherwise you will be taking a loss.

Be strategic with your shipping area

You’ve thought about your packaging and the minimum order for delivery – however, you must also determining the limits to where you are delivering. A MOV ensures profit for delivery, but it does not consider the shipping area. Your shipping area must be feasible with your resources while also considering the needs of your customers. To determine the best shipping area for your business, compile a list of where your customers are located and choose the most frequent.

Tip: If you are just starting out with delivery, start small. Service in our own area first. Build up a customer base and then consider expanding to different cities. You want to make sure you are running a profitable business before running the risk of shipping to a larger area.

Don’t work with only one carrier

If you don’t have the resources or time to deliver your own products, consider using a shipping partner. This blog post outlines all you need to know when determining whether to do this. If you do work with a carrier, do not only use one. Different carriers have different costs for residential vs. post office deliveries. Use a few different carriers for different orders and compare and contrast. This may seem more time consuming, however it increases the chance of getting the best deal. Also, don’t forget the power of negotiation! Use competitive pricing to get the price you want.


Co-delivery is a great option for saving on shipping costs. Co-delivery is the coordination of vehicle distribution routes from different suppliers to bring products to their buyers. Essentially, it is connecting two suppliers that need to distribute their products to the same location, however do not have the capacity to do it alone. It can save you money, increase your shipping area, fill capacity and even reduce emissions from your distribution route! To learn more on how it helped these three farmers save time and money on their distribution, click here


Backhauling is the carrying of goods on return trips. An example of this is delivering a product from your farm to Toronto and then collecting products from suppliers located in Toronto and bringing them to the region where your farm is located in. This prevents empty vehicles from returning to their original location and aiding other suppliers that require transportation. Backhauling allows for profit from the return trip. This can be combined with co-delivery to help you save money.

Pick up locations

If door-to-door delivery is not feasible for your business, or you’re looking to decrease current costs, consider pick up locations! Pick up locations allow you to bring your products a little closer to your customers and a lot closer to you. Instead of having to make 8 deliveries in one day, you could possibly cut it back to 1 or 2! In addition to reducing costs, pick up locations can also help you promote your business by having locations in busy customer hotspots such as farmers markets, gyms, schools or community centers. To learn exactly how pick up locations can save your business money, check out this post

We all want to save money in our businesses. Don’t lose money by trying to get your products to your customers. The last tip to success is having a way to properly manage, track, and communicate your distribution. Put it all in one place. 

How to set up the best online storefront

So you have an online store now!  Congrats and welcome to the world of selling online. Your online store is the first thing customers now see when purchasing from your business. Let’s make it great. Now that you have a storefront, it’s time to set it up to meet your needs. To help you get started, here are our best tips to get the best online storefront:

Catchy and consistent branding

The first step to setting up your online store is your branding. Your branding should match your product and business and should be easily identified in the market. Your online store is now the hub of your business therefore anything that you use here should be the same as what you use in marketing materials and social media. Check out this article for tips on branding.

Don’t neglect “About us”

This section of your online store allows you to tell your unique business story to current and future customers. Make it short and sweet, covering the philosophy behind your product and what sets it apart from the rest. Food is personal – so make sure to consider this when writing it. Include photographs of yourself, your team and your facilities. Always put a face to your brand – let your customers know who’s growing their food.

Photographs and more photographs!

In addition to the photographs in your About Us section, be sure to add high quality photos of your products. These photos are the only indication for new customers of what you sell and what they should expect when ordering. The more visual your product list is – the higher the chance that someone will order from you. Pictures tell a thousand words. Today, food photography has become an artform through Instagram. It’s all about the right lighting, good backgrounds and angles. This post will help you get those #instaworthy photos. Furthermore, add a banner and profile picture that will draw the eye and link with your business branding.

Think about your product names

After pictures, customers will be looking for your product titles. Be sure to keep them short and descriptive. Play into current food trends – for example if you grow organic produce, add organic in front of each product. This sounds more appealing and will help to drive sales. Same with terms such as Grass-Fed, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Artisan as customers are often looking for these buzzwords.

Easy URL

This one is simple, but can be forgotten! For your online store, be sure to use a URL that is relevant and catchy to your business. Don’t make it too long and always add the name of your business or a version of it. People should be easily able to remember it so that they can start typing it into their search bar themselves.

Don’t forget about logistics

Logistics and distribution is a huge factor for online stores. Be sure to have your delivery and pick up location schedule easily visible on your store – you don’t want your customers to have to search for it. The more logistics options you have, the better. However, this is entirely up to the capacity of your business. Remember – always update it if anything changes. The worst thing is when someone checks out and you no longer offer delivery to their area.

Take inspiration from success stories

If you’re feeling lost and don’t know where to start, take inspiration from others! Look at the leaders in your industry and see what’s working from them. If it works for them, why wouldn’t it work for you?

Having a great storefront isn’t a science. The main takeaway points is have a lot of visuals (the more the better) and add your personal touch. It shouldn’t look like you didn’t put a lot of thought into it. The appearance of your online store can be the make it or break it point in your business.

5 Ways to Increase Your Food Business’ Productivity Today

People that manage to get a lot done in one day aren’t superhuman – they just have the right set of tools and habits to help them out! Increasing your business’ productivity can make the difference between staying stagnant and growing. Set the right habits today by using these five Local Line tips:

1. Use one central hub

This is the starting point for increasing your business’ productivity. When having multiple locations where data is stored, you are increasing the likelihood for information to be lost or forgotten. It seems impossible to have to keep track of 10+ different spreadsheets or folders! Use one system to log orders, update customer information and manage finances to ensure that everything can be easily found, inputted and updated. This will save a lot of time trying to find where you last stored information.

2. Go paperless

Paper is unproductive. It can be easily lost or misplaced, and is prone to error. Online systems provide accountability, easy access and sense of security in case of a crashed system or failure. Further to this, an online system is made for you and works for you, instead of you working for it. Find a system that calculates, organizes and communicates for you – the system should allow you to save time to focus on other aspects of your business. It also looks and feels professional!

3. Sell online too!

Selling online through an e-commerce system helps you make sales without having to sell. Unlike selling at a farmer’s market, an online store allows you to showcase your products to customers without physically having to be in front of them. It lets your products speak for themselves! Selling face to face can take a lot of time, so combine it with an online store to double your sales.

4. Automate your customer communications

Individually sending emails to all of your customers with your inventory or business news can be extremely unproductive. Our tip to increase productivity and save time is to automate the process. Divide your customer list based on their needs (wholesale vs household) and send one email to the entire list. Don’t waste your time manually doing this! You can also schedule frequent or repeating emails to be sent on the same day every week or month! This will keep the communication flowing, without putting the strain on you.

5. Use an accounting service

Managing your finances can be time consuming and tedious. To be more productive use an accounting management system, such as QuickBooks. These systems allow you to input your expenses and profits and send and accept invoices directly to/from customers. It can save you hours. Furthermore, QuickBooks can be integrated into our software resulting in a seamless transition from a customer order to invoice.

Increasing your productivity doesn’t happen over night. Start using these steps today as a guide to work towards a more productive tomorrow.