Food News

New Dallas Start-Up Creates Online Marketplace for Healthy, Locally Produced Food

For Aidee Granados, being healthy is about more than cutting back on sugar and getting exercise. It’s a lifestyle she’s worked hard to embrace, and now a business she’s sharing with others.

“It’s like a vocation,” she said. “We all have to be educated.”

Granados, 40, has launched Merry Crate, a website and app where users can search for healthy foods and personal care products. It’s not where to find gluten-free flour, but rather a place to go to order gluten-free bread from a local baker.

“This is a marketplace, so we have been inviting people to be vendors,” Granados says. There are two approaches to Merry Crate: “One is to choose a healthy lifestyle and the other one is to support local entrepreneurs, because all the products that we have are made by local people.”

Vendors on the site may be stay-at-home moms, part-timers or local business owners who have a healthy recipe and fit Granados’ standards. The customers order the goods online, and (much like apps like DoorDash) you see the progress of your order, from the vendor accepting your order, making your order, and delivery. Unlike typical food delivery apps, it can take far longer because the item is sometimes made from scratch after you've placed an order.

Depending on the vendor and your ZIP code, you could pick up the item, it could be delivered, or it might have nationwide-shipping. Many of the products on the site offer free delivery for North Texas area codes. Granados works within the Cottage Food Law for at-home providers, she says.

For Granados, who is from Mexico and has lived in the States for five years, finding health-conscious food options became a necessity. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Before my cancer, I was in between on being healthier,” she says. “I learned more … I don’t want another disease.”

You can find some of these products at a local farmer’s market or even some grocery stores, but Granados hopes North Texans will take to the convenience of ordering online from a source that details makers and ingredients. 
“With my cancer, I was very cautious with all products. Here, you can buy with confidence for you and your family because it will be good for you,” she says.

There are currently eight vendors — which under this business are called Merry Makers — on the site, and Granados is looking for more. The standards are high, and she works in the kitchens and follows vendors’ process all the way. She gave one example of an organic coffee roaster who she chose not to work with because they wouldn’t explain more about their process.

The marketplace has a list of ingredients that you won't find in any Merry Crate items, such as artificial colors and sweetness, white sugar and bleached flour.

“We are very picky,” she says.

Some almond-date cookie bites are gluten-free and vegan, and cost $5 for six. There are even some organic and GMO-free pumpkin marshmallows, but those come in at $42 for four bags containing six marshmallows each.

“So yeah, sometimes the organic and GMO-free, natural things are a little more expensive than the regular ones, but it’s something that we, we know we deserve better,” she says. “It’s super important.”

She plans to expand the service as she brings in more sellers. Eventually, she says, she'd like Merry Crate app users to be able to see the reliable vendors around them in real-time, much like Uber customers can see nearby cars. 

“When you find products on Merry Crate, they are smiling at you,” she says. “Because they are created as something good for you.”
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Taylor Adams has written about the restaurant industry for the Dallas Observer since 2016. Now the Observer's food editor, she attended Southern Methodist University before covering local news at The Dallas Morning News.