Food delivery: tough for the public to digest?

Many full-time students (and workers) may dread long trips to the grocery store, or simply don’t have time to go. In Victoria, however, some companies and organizations will help people make healthy food choices without the customer even leaving their home.

Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD), Nature’s Farmacy and Share Organics, to name a few businesses in Victoria, deliver fresh produce directly to customers’ homes on a weekly basis, sometimes along with other grocery items.

Some major grocery chains in Victoria, such as Thrifty Foods, also offer delivery services. But what sets the smaller companies apart is their focus on organic and locally sourced produce.

“[Local farmers] don’t have enough supply to meet the demand of stores to make their store shelves look full,” says J.P. Lafleur, a volunteer at Nature’s Farmacy. “It becomes tough for [grocery stores] to rely on local food.”

Nature’s Farmacy is a division of the Harold Foster Foundation, an organization that promotes global health based on the research of the late Dr. Harold Foster, a medical geography professor at UVic for more than 40 years.

Studies have shown the average American spends about 40 minutes in the grocery store on  a shopping trip.

Peter van Stolk, CEO of SPUD, says, “The need to do that every week is eliminated because we are a recurring delivery system. You can do something else instead, like yoga, or spend time with family.” 

In addition to selling fresh produce, SPUD is a complete online grocery store, allowing people to order meat and seafood, dairy products, baked goods, snacks and house cleaning products — all of which will be delivered.

Local and organic products tend to be more expensive, but van Stolk says online grocery shopping eliminates the impulse aspect of shopping, often lowering the grocery bill for customers who used to buy at a store.

“The reality is that every grocery [store] you go to, whether it’s Superstore or Costco, everything is placed so that you buy it,” says van Stolk. “There’s a reason why salty snacks are next to the soft drinks . . . to entice you to buy things. Do you really need that $5 bag of chips?”

According to Lafleur and van Stolk, people are sometimes uncomfortable with other people picking their groceries, which is part of the battle to gain customers.

“We found people like to go there and pick out their own stuff,” says Lafleur. “They like that shopping experience where they can literally go and see what’s available and hold things and maybe take that one item that doesn’t have a blemish on it.”

“That’s kind of a fear factor in the industry,” says van Stolk. “Every consumer item of online shopping has more sales, like baby products, clothes and flowers, but the lowest online perspective is food. Yet it is the largest category in annualized sales. It’s an oxymoron.”

Lafleur says people also have to be open to eating foods that are in season, which may mean items they aren’t used to.

“We can supply customers because the farms produce it. What comes in their box obviously changes because [crops] change with the season,” says Lafleur.

On average, a single delivery box costs around $35 through SPUD and Nature’s Farmacy.

Lafleur and van Stolk say their customers are students, young families with children, and elderly people, especially those who don’t drive.

Locally owned grocery store Ingredients (2031 Store St.) is known for its affordable bulk food section and selection of local organic produce. For Ingredients co-owner Deanna Danychuk, there’s room for both grocery stores and delivery services. 

“Certainly there are people who perhaps are bound to their homes,” says Danychuk. “We’ve had requests of having food delivery or an online till where they can make purchases online and have the items delivered. But people also enjoy coming out — the social aspect of it. Our place is a comfortable, social area.”

When asked if Ingredients will offer delivery in the future, she says, “I think so. Going online to order is definitely a trend of the future. It’s a matter of both convenience and offering a service that’s sort of a sign of the times.”

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