Food delivery: how local brands have reinvented themselves
The going has been tough, but in response to the lockdown local brands have reinvented themselves
Swimwear brand Granadilla is more closely associated with scorching days and hot bods on Clifton’s 4th Beach than with veggie boxes.
But the business has changed direction during lockdown and is now delivering "immune-boosting goodness to your doorstep" (in Cape Town) with fresh pasta, veggie boxes and kombucha, among other goods.
The swimwear brand launched "Granadilla Eats" on March 14 when the owners saw retail coming to a standstill because of Covid-19.
Using the Granadilla brand and team and their kombucha factory, it partnered with local farmers and popular small businesses. The first box of produce was delivered 48 hours after launching.
By the time the lockdown began, Granadilla Eats had delivered more than 500 fresh boxes to people’s homes and had become certified as an "essential services provider", allowing it to continue delivering during the lockdown.
One of the standout items is freshly baked Woodstock sourdough bread, and it is sourcing as much of its produce as possible from Valota, a small community farm in Philippi.
Food operators and delivery companies are starting to emerge from the shadows after having obtained licences, with some having reconfigured what they sell, and others changing tack from catering to creating and delivering homemade meals during lockdown.
Catering company the Food Goddess has been around since 2008, doing corporate functions as well as parties and events.
"I quickly had to change my business," says owner Lara Meter. "We’re online, doing dinners that can also be kept frozen and we do deliveries."
Based in Westdene in Johannesburg, the Food Goddess normally caters for upmarket events and high-end catering. "Now we’re trying to make home-cooked health meals" she says over the phone, making marinated chicken breasts as we chat.
Options include dishes such as lamb curry and other hearty meals as well as vegan options like butternut, lentil and chickpea curry.
Fresh Creative Catering’s Vicki Clarke Posnett says at the start of Covid-19, when cancellations started rolling in for weddings, private and corporate events, she and her team "reacted fast". They now have a limited menu with limited delivery dates so that they can control who is in and out of their kitchen. They do deliveries to people’s homes rather than have collections.
How do they ensure food is kept hygienic? "We are very strict in the kitchen with how deliveries of produce are handled and received [gloves and masks and endless sanitising]," says Clarke Posnett. "Each staff member wears a buff or mask and we work in a temperature-controlled cold kitchen for preparation of food. By having a smaller team, we are better able to control the dispensing of packaging for delivery of the end products."
The big boys
Online floral and gift company NetFlorist is now delivering fruit and vegetables and a core range of groceries. The fresh fruit and vegetables section is in partnership with The Fruit Spot (which packs the products that NetFlorist delivers in its cooled vehicles). Groceries are picked up from stores and delivered in the cooled vehicles.
NetFlorist MD Ryan Bacher says it had started selling fruit and vegetables even before the lockdown, so it then applied for an essential services certificate for fruit, vegetables and related food. The new range went live in Johannesburg and Pretoria on April 6 and NetFlorist is assessing the viability of doing this in Cape Town and Durban as well.
Online and bricks-and-mortar kitchenware business Yuppiechef has a range of pantry staples, coffees and teas and beverages, food basics, sauces and health products.
Food delivery app Mr D Food has started a trial for the delivery of essential goods such as food, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Individual stores will determine what goods are for sale and each store will set its own price. The service will initially be available only in selected areas, between 8am and 5pm on weekdays.
But the company plans to expand areas, outlets and trading times as soon as possible. It says all items will be available through contactless delivery.
Takealot is now delivering essential goods during lockdown. It has imposed stock limitations on certain key products and will be restricting customers to no more than five of these items per checkout.
"We will continue to monitor buying behaviour and may expand on these key products as the need arises," it said in a statement. This includes food (as well as pet food), cleaning and hygiene products and fuel such as gas and coal.
Big retailers including Checkers, Pick n Pay and Woolworths continue to do home deliveries. Checkers customers can now also order medicines telephonically from MediRite pharmacies; they can confirm the order on the Mr D Food app, which will do the delivery. The initiative is initially being rolled out across 55 of the 90 Checkers supermarkets with MediRite pharmacies.
Taking the gap
The sudden demand for goods delivered to homes has also paved the way for new independent fresh produce businesses. Joburg couple Mark and Cindy Poluta initially planned to launch a delivery service to office parks in May, but the lockdown forced them to change plans.
"We received requests from friends to do home fruit and vegetable deliveries, so we decided to launch early and change our strategy to cater for the consumers who are now trapped at home," says Cindy Poluta, co-owner of Tree Sweets.
The Tree Sweets mobile app offering for Android and iPhone includes seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, with various specials available to selected areas within Joburg. Delivery is free based on a minimum order of R200, and takes place twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.
"Things escalated quickly with lockdown," says Poluta. "I don’t think we could have anticipated the demand. We had to control things by offering delivery to select areas within the reach of our fleet.
"Once we were able to extend our reach slightly, we asked that people send us a text with their area to confirm availability in their area. If they fall outside our primary catchment area, we ask that a minimum order of R300 is placed," she adds.
Tree Sweets has taken its staff through an intensive training programme, explaining how the coronavirus spreads, and how to correctly wear the masks provided to them.
"We’ve allocated a hand sanitiser unit to each of our trucks and we’ve advised our staff — where possible, once contact has been made with the customer — to place the order on the floor and walk away, allowing the customer to pick the order up while ensuring social distance," adds Poluta.
Another business that started deliveries from March 23 is Ferreira Fresh, which runs a farm in Midrand but also gets supplies from other markets.
Lino Ferreira, director at Ferreira Fresh, says things have become extremely busy. "We did not expect the demand that we’ve had, with orders pouring in from all areas."
The company has kept the ordering process simple with only two options; a box of fresh produce for R295 or a larger one for R499. Orders are taken through a dedicated WhatsApp messaging line or e-mail. No phone orders are accepted.
"We wanted to simplify the process for smaller or larger families so people could order and have enough for a week," says Ferreira. "We chose a variety of more common items that would appeal to most people and had a set price to keep things as simple as possible instead of having a separate delivery charge.
"The feedback was positive, so much so that people thought it was too good to be true and phoned us to check if it was a scam," he says.
The company has 26 vehicles and makes use of a tracking system to help plot the routes for the drivers, to ensure optimal delivery times.
Ferreira says all drivers have masks, gloves and sanitisers in their vehicles, and have been told to keep their distance when delivering to customers.
Wine into water (and everything else)
Bottles is an on-demand alcohol delivery app that partners with Pick n Pay, but once lockdown and the ban on alcohol sales kicked in, the app was re-engineered from alcohol to groceries in a matter of days.
Vincent Viviers, co-founder and co-CEO of Bottles, says the relationship with Pick n Pay meant the systems were already integrated from a stock management, invoicing and reconciliation point of view.
“Because of this unique advantage, we had the ability to start listing and selling grocery items on the Bottles app very quickly.”
Some of the tweaks included defining the right mix of essential groceries customers would want from a same-day delivery service. And drivers had to be trained to make contactless deliveries.
The app was piloted in two stores on March 31, with a product range of only 150 items. Customer response was “overwhelming” so it was soon extended to 48 stores. That number is now 85 and customers can choose from more than 1,500 products.
There are no limits to the number of orders accepted a day and the average delivery time is around 90 minutes, says Viviers. Bottles has partnered with OrderIn to help expand the delivery network to service more customers. Collectively, they have about 250 drivers delivering groceries from stores directly to customers’ front doors.
Since redirecting the business to offer this same-day “grocery essentials” service for Pick n Pay they’ve nearly doubled their reach and trebled the volume of orders.
All orders from the Bottles app are picked up directly from local stores. The Grocery Essentials same-day delivery service with Bottles runs in addition to Pick n Pay’s online shopping service, which allows customers to book delivery slots often for larger weekly or monthly shops.
The same-day delivery service lets customers order and buy up to 30 different products in a store, at store prices. There is a delivery and service fee of R60. The process has helped retain existing employees and contractors, as well as create more jobs.