Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Putting the green back in the grocery business

I was sitting at the kitchen table this afternoon, working away on my computer (my office has been taken over by three young boys who have taken over my computer network to play Runescape!) when I heard a soft voice calling from the front doorway.

"Hello? Hello? I've brought your groceries in...hello?"

"What the...?" I wondered. I don't get a lot of visitors and they don't usually bring me food.

Just as I made it to the door, I saw a young guy in shorts and T-shirt, with a bicycle helmet, making his way down our front walk. It was the guy from SPUD.ca, who had just dropped off our weekly delivery of organic produce. But this week, he was delivering it using his fancy bicycle trailer, which carries about two dozen Rubbermaid containers. It's quite the rig.

I wish I could show you a picture of this contraption, but my camera is still in the shop for repairs. But I can't resist telling you about this cool little company that brings organic produce you've ordered over the Internet, right to your door.

SPUD, for those who haven't heard of it, stands for Small Potatoes Urban Delivery. It's a web-based business, where customers receive weekly emails about what's available, pick out what they want, send their order in, and it shows up the next week at your door.

It started in Vancouver in 1997, and has since grown to locations around Vancouver, Vancouver Island (including Victoria, where I am), Calgary and into the US.

The website has a good explanation of how the service works and a history of the company, put together by founder David van Seters.

Here's a short excerpt:
After completing a study on the economics of sustainable community food systems, I felt I had identified an ideal business - an organic food delivery company. Such a business would have numerous benefits. It could:

* protect the environment by buying local, organic, minimally packaged, and eco-friendly products;

* build community by creating more direct connections between food producers and consumers;

* reduce traffic congestion and pollution by delivering groceries on a set route;

* educate customers about important food issues through a weekly newsletter; and

* donate leftover food to food outreach groups and disadvantaged families.

Finally, by operating from a low rent warehouse, the avoided cost of a commercial retail space could be put into delivery vehicles, thereby offering customers the convenience of home delivery for no extra cost than they would pay at their local grocery store.

I like the concept and I think it illustrates a viable mix of conventional business (the grocery store) making use of today's Web technology to deliver a useful product.

Your order arrives between 9 am and 9 pm on your delivery day, and your day depends on where you live. Most of the products are organic and you receive a print-out showing you how many kilometres everything you bought had to be trucked. There's a preference given to local producers and even a nifty newsletter added to every order.

Maybe it's because I'm so busy with my business these days (not that I'm complaining, understand!) that I am attracted to success stories like this. I like the integration of technology and savvy. It's a good combination. Check out their website. If they're in your area, I recommend you give it a try.

1 comment:

Sue Horner said...

What a great idea, and I just love the name! Too bad Canadian locations are only in BC and Calgary.