Meet the Maker: Sourced Market
16 Jan 2015
Sourced Market was founded by Ben O’Brien in 2007. Sourced Market came from Ben’s desire to create a store that offered the same quality of food you’d find in Borough Market with the convenience of a Tesco Express. Sourced Market found its first permanent site in St Pancras station in 2009, from there everything took off.
Currently Sourced Market serve over 12,000 people a week and have a turnover of £2.2 million. For January 2015, Ben decided to make take Sourced Market on tour and opened a second store in Old Street Station. We caught up with Ben ahead of the launch to find out more…
What gave you the idea for Sourced Market?
Back in 2007 I was living on Borough Market but working in the music industry. I would spend a lot of time at music festivals and back then the best you could hope for was a dodgy burger from a white van. "Street Food" was not part of our vocabulary! I had got to know many of the amazing producers at Borough Market and just felt that great music should be accompanied by great food and persuaded a group of traders to set up camp at a festival for the weekend. It was a big hit and many of the traders sold out on the first day and had to spend the night cooking and prepping to have enough food for the next day. We realised that people did appreciate great food and "Sourced Market" went on the road to a number of different festivals and events, from Secret Garden Party to Lovebox to Secret Cinema.
Then I moved out of Borough Market to Hackney and no longer had Borough Market on my doorstep and I realised both how great and how unique it was. I wanted the kind of product and shopping experience that you find at a really great market to be as easy to find as a convenience store and the idea for a permanent Sourced Market was born. We found our first site in St Pancras station in 2009 and we now serve 12,000 customers a week.
How do you choose the brands in Sourced Market?
Essentially I just pick what I like! Obviously we have a range that we need to keep but we're lucky in that we are approached by small food producers with great new products on a daily basis and more and more people are starting up food businesses, so we have more products to choose from.
We have a preference for local producers as we like to work with our community and also like to get our producers in to meet our customers, plus we only work with ethically and sustainably produced products. There's a lot of industrially produced food that's bad for your health and bad for the environment and we do our best to avoid it.
How did you approach the design of Sourced Market?
I've been fortunate to work with a great designer, Shaun Clarkson, but coming from a market background I had I guess a completely different vision to someone coming from a retail or more traditional shop background.
I wanted Sourced Market to be open and accessible so people feel comfortable browsing and to serve a number of purposes - from shopping, through to food to go, to dining. The produce needed to be the hero and I wanted the atmosphere and activity that you find at a farmers' market.
How do you create that market atmosphere in a station store?
By putting the produce on display and bringing the farmers, producers, brewers etc into the market to showcase their products. I really wanted to get away from sterile supermarket isles where everything is pre-packed.
What do you think is driving Farmers Markets popularity?
People care about the quality and provenance of their food more and more and they want to know the story behind the product - how it's made, where and by whom. There's something real about finding this out from the producer themselves and feeling their passion and you only get this at a market. Plus you have the sights and smells and most importantly lots of samples available ;)
Why did you decide to open another store in Old Street Station?
We feel we've now created a blueprint at St Pancras and after five years trading there we are now ready to open another site. Sourced Market is all about making great food more accessible. St Pancras has been really great for us as we have such a huge audience in terms of the passing footfall and Old Street Station is just the same. Plus Old Street has a real buzz about it at the moment as a number of really great food operators have taken sites in there over the last year.