Local spin on grocery delivery in K-W

Busy Kitchener-Waterloo residents are now able to buy locally-grown food through the help of Grocera

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Contributed Image

Busy Kitchener-Waterloo residents are now able to buy locally-grown food through the help of Grocera, a startup grocery delivery service headed by University of Waterloo alumni Niket Soni and Wilfrid Laurier University alumni, Patrick Valoppi.

Grocera is an online-based company where customers can pick from a variety of products including meat, produce and kitchen-essentials, among others.

Since its inception two months ago, the service has acquired five local suppliers, including St. Agatha for produce, Grain Harvest for baked goods and local independent organizations for meat products.

The startup company plans to expand its product features by offering organic and gluten-free options.

“It’s just continually seeing what people want, what’s going to resonate with them and being able to offer that from a logistics point of view,” Soni said.

For Soni, the idea derived from working at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for two years handling food safety. This exposed him to a variety of different manufacturers as well as the logistics behind working for the industry.

This experience worked well with his hobby for web development and programming.

Soni also found that Canada is late on this trend, which leaves a huge market in the industry.

“I know there’s a gap in the market place because local food is what’s trending right now … it’s an on-demand economy, we want things now or the next day at the latest. We’re right on the outsets so there’s a huge market there that we’re really trying to capture.”

Growing up, buying local food was always important for Valoppi since his family has a history of agriculture. Seeing the gap in Waterloo in which many missed out on plentiful and nutritious Ontario food, he debated on whether to return to the corporate world — having previously worked at Microsoft — or to venture into startups, also having experience in the field.

“It was just one of those opportunities at the right time. Niket posted an ad on a local tech forum … I was reading it and it looked really awesome and it aligned with all the values that I have and it took off from there,” Valoppi, a business graduate, explained.

Grocera considers itself not only a tech company but also a “service for the people,” as the startup wants to focus on building invaluable relationships with its customers.

“We’re trying to recreate that ‘milk man relationship’ that used to exist even with technology where usually you have less human interaction.

Not only does that instill the trust factor, but gives it a retro feel to the whole idea. Yes it’s a tech company, but we’re also customer-focused,” said Soni.

In terms of customer outreach and community reception, Valoppi added that there are target markets that have responded positively to the service.

He mentioned students and “time-starved” parents who can’t dedicate enough time to grocery shop.

“I talked to a couple of students who said during finals they eat a can of beans for dinner because they had nothing else in the fridge. If you don’t have time to get groceries, we can provide you wholesome ingredients for your meal,” said Valoppi.

As a recent startup, Grocera already has a lot planned for its next steps, which includes an expansion to Toronto by next summer and more product offerings such as alcohol delivery.

The company is currently in the process of applying for an alcohol delivery license, which will allow them to deliver local beer and wine. “That’s a service that’s going to resonate with students so we’re actually very excited for that,” said Soni.

As for Toronto, the company will take the winter to plan and contact suppliers.

Soni believes that the logistical and operational model currently implemented is “transplantable” to different areas.

“We started in Kitchener-Waterloo because it’s like a test market. It has a growing population, there are students, there are elderly, we have everything we need and then once we figured out all the kinks it’s time to go big,” Soni explained.

The company plans to wholeheartedly continue the service in the region accommodating all customers by offering discounts.

For example, Laurier students will receive a special discount using the discount code “laurier5” for five per cent off. A newsletter will also be in place to benefit loyal customers.

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