Grocery delivery isn’t new. King Soopers has been offering the digital age version of the service in Denver for years. It is now racing to keep up with Amazon-owned competitor Whole Foods.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased demand for alternatives to in-store grocery shopping.
In late March, as the virus was first spreading in the U.S., Chicago-based C+R Research contacted more than 2,000 Americans to ask about their grocery-buying habits. The survey, conducted on an Amazon survey platform, found 73% of people reported going to the grocery store less often.
“According to respondents, 44% said they are using more restaurant, meal-kit or grocery delivery services and apps,” C+R wrote in its report.
It’s not just major companies offering shoppers the option to leave their PJs on and wait for the milk and eggs to show up on their doorstep rather than face the store. The pandemic has given rise to many new partnerships, business plan pivots and startup operations delivering foodstuffs ranging from selections of specialty cheeses to fresh-cut bison strip steaks.
Here is a look at three operators offering Coloradans delivery options that didn’t exist six months ago.
LittleJohn Produce Box Project
This nonprofit, which serves Denver and Boulder counties, delivers boxes of fresh produce and social impact.
Founder and executive director Alexandra LittleJohn was laid off in April thanks to the pandemic. By then, she was already buying boxes of produce from Denver-area restaurant produce supplier Fresh Guys for herself, friends, coworkers and their family member. It was a means to avoid grocery stores and save food that no longer had a set destination from being wasted.
LittleJohn decided to take that effort to the next level by launching and now offers once weekly delivery and pickup options. With an expanding roster of partner suppliers, LittleJohn customers can buy things like fine cheeses, cage-free eggs, sourdough bread and a variety of produce without getting off the couch.
The organization’s most popular product, the balanced box, goes for $25 and includes an assortment of Fresh Guys’ fruits and vegetables with a focus on what’s in-season.
“It’s about $40-plus worth of produce,” LittleJohn said. “You get about twice the value out of the boxes than you would at the grocery store.”
Alayna George, director of sales and chairmen of the nonprofit’s board, started out as a customer before becoming a volunteer staffer in June.
“The ability to stay out of the grocery stores was really important for me at the point,” George said. “I was really impressed by the quality of food and the affordability. I still stand by it; it’s the best produce I’ve had in Colorado.”
Beyond providing an option to skip the grocery store, the organization also allows people to buy boxes of produce and eggs that are donated to people in need. It works with two west Denver elementary schools to find families to donate to. People can also request food support through the website.
“The community is buying these boxes to help our marginalized communities. That’s really what it comes down to,” LittleJohn said of the people her organization is helping feed.
As of mid-September, the organization had donated nearly 1,000 boxes of food. LittleJohn and George are pursuing 501c3 status so the organization can apply for grants and other funding to support that work and hopefully sustainably support themselves and their volunteer drivers.
LittleJohn has only paid herself $400 since launching the enterprise in March, she said. She and George are living off of their unemployment benefits after both losing the jobs to the pandemic. The flat $5 delivery fee for orders all goes directly to drivers.
Because the LittleJohn Produce Box Project is small, its delivery reach is limited. In order to get food dropped off, customers must live within 8 miles of one of the organization’s three primary pickup locations: Copper Door Coffee Roasters, 900 W. First Ave. in Denver; Dry Storage bakery, 3601 Arapahoe Ave., in Boulder; or Cheese Importers, 103 Main St., in Longmont.
Before the pandemic, Altamira Foods was busy supplying the metro area’s booming fine dining scene with specialty items like foie gras and imported croissants.
When the pandemic triggered a statewide restaurant shutdown in March, Altamira Doorstep and its online marketplace altamiradoorstep.com sprung up out of necessity and the hard work of company’s staff, CEO Joey Gentry said.
“We just sort of said, (shoot), what are we going to do?” Gentry recalled. “I don’t even remember who brought it up, but someone said, ‘Why don’t we start delivery to homes?’ And it just exploded. We literally could not keep up.”
Now, Altamira’s refrigerated trucks make stops from Colorado Springs to Boulder. Delivery is free for orders over $50. Delivery schedules and availability vary by customer location.
Altamira has a wide selection including meats, snacks like chips and crackers, and frozen foods. Being a fine foods supplier, offerings even veer into the hard-to-find category.
“How many people are out there looking for ras el hanout spice? Or macarons?” Gentry said. “That’s kind of our wheelhouse, but we never had a way to send it to the consumer or even wanted to really.”
For all the specialty items in offers, Gentry said Altamira Doorstep has been helped by being able to sell Fresh Guys produce, the same company that supplies LittleJohn.
As restaurants have reopened, home delivery orders have slowed down and restaurant clients are again supplying a big chunk of Altamira’s business. Gentry is trying to balance the high labor costs that go into home delivery (staffers are cutting 18-pound wheels of Parmesan cheese into 1-pound portions to sell to customers) with demand while supporting the company’s restaurant clients.
“It’s a little bit of a loss leader for us but we enjoy the fact that we are able to service the community and provide a service for people who literally can’t get out of the house and go out and get food,” he said of home delivery.
Ted’s Butcher Shoppe
This service isn’t unique to Colorado. Customers can place orders from just about anywhere in the world if they can log on to the website. But the company’s marquee product — hormone and steroid-free bison meat — all passes through Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Natural Meats processing plant, company officials say.
Ted’s Butcher Shoppe is a new venture from Ted’s Montana Grill, the restaurant chain that has been championing bison meat as a great American protein since 2002.
The delivery operation has been up and running since June, offering next-day drop-off of fresh-cut, never-frozen beef and bison steak cuts and grind so long as customers get their orders in by 9 a.m. Mountain Time each day, Ted’s CEO George McKerrow said earlier this month.
“Basically, if you order today that product will be cut and packaged today and put in FedEx this afternoon and delivered to doorstep tomorrow,” McKerrow said.
Orders places on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be delivered on Tuesday. The Ted’s butcher shop doesn’t operate on weekends.
Getting fresh meat shipped from Ted’s HQ isn’t cheap. A bison filet costs $31, but that doesn’t even hit the $50 minimum for an order. Combination boxes of beef, bison or a combination of the two start at $155. But it’s a premium price for a premium product, Ted’s officials say.
For McKerrow, who co-founded the Ted’s chain with billionaire Ted Turner, the owner of some 60,000 bison on ranches scattered throughout the American West, it’s about providing options for consumers, but it’s also about protecting the company and its employees while restaurants struggle with low traffic amid the pandemic.
“It’s a product of pivoting during the difficult economic times we’re facing and obviously the psyche of the country and folks, in general, wanting more delivery options,” McKerrow said. “We think this fulfills the desire for consumers to have the highest quality products deliver to their doors.”
This content was originally published here.