Since bringing its business to Edmonton in October 2014, SPUD (Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery) has been delivering local and organic goods to customers, forging and strengthening partnerships with local food producers, and enjoying strong support from Edmonton’s local food community.
Founded in Vancouver in 1997, SPUD expanded to Calgary in 2002 and began building relationships with Alberta’s food producers. SPUD employees were aware of Edmonton’s thriving local food community before bringing their service to Edmonton, but the success they have enjoyed since arriving here has exceeded their expectations.
“The first three weeks we were open we did 40, 50 and 60 orders a week respectively and we were very excited and patting ourselves on the back and then by the sixth week we were delivering a thousand boxes a week,” says Corbin Bourree, managing director for SPUD Edmonton.
Although pleased with the support, Bourree adds that his company has “done a really great job of providing service” to its customers.
How SPUD’s service works
SPUD delivers a variety of products, most of which are either local, organic or both, to customers’ doorsteps.
“Basically if you took a Planet Organic or a Blush Lane and crossed that with some of the really cool items that you’d find at the local farmers’ market on the weekend, that’s the product selection that we carry,” explains Bourree.
Customers can search for and order products on SPUD’s website. Each product is displayed with a photo and will have a tag identifying whether it is local or organic. Additional nutritional information is available as well. “It really comes down to transparency,” says Bourree. “We try to put the information back into people’s hands so they can pick the right items for their families.”
SPUD’s model focuses on flexibility as well as transparency. Customers do not need to subscribe, become members or pay a fee to use the service. They can order once and not use the service again or they can order on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. There is no delivery charge for orders $35 and over. Customers have until 3 p.m. the day before their scheduled delivery day to finalize their order, and, on the day of delivery, can log into the website to get an estimated time for when their box will arrive.
Customer satisfaction is important to SPUD so if customers are dissatisfied with their order, SPUD will re-deliver items, offer customers their money back or offer complimentary items in the next order.
Customers can also ask SPUD to add products to their current selection. “I think we’ve listed probably 700 or 800 new items since we launched in October and just about every one of those has been a request we received from someone,” says Bourree. “We don’t pretend to know every item we need to carry but we really ask people what they would like to see us carrying and what items they’re still having to go to the grocery store to buy.”
As a delivery service, SPUD offers its customers the convenience of getting groceries without having to leave the house, an offer that customers have been particularly keen on during Edmonton’s winter storms.
“If I were to show you the number of orders we do a week and cross with any sort of winter storms we’ve had, it spikes when the weather’s bad and it’s more of a hassle to get in a car and go to the grocery store,” says Bourree.
Product delivery is a convenient option not only because of cold weather but also because not everyone lives close to farmers’ markets or food stores selling local produce. SPUD’s delivery system gives people living in the suburbs easy access to local food.
SPUD’s local partnerships
By bringing local food to customers without convenient access to a farmers’ market or local food shop, SPUD serves Edmontonians looking for local food but also assists local food producers by helping them expand their market. Vendors at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, for example, can reach more customers by partnering with SPUD, who will distribute their produce to people who live too far away from the Strathcona market to conveniently go there for groceries.
Rather than competing with farmers’ markets, SPUD offers a complementary service by making mid-week deliveries to communities that do not have convenient access to a farmers’ market.
SPUD has enjoyed tremendous support from Edmonton’s local food community so far and plans to continue offering great service. There are a few ways (besides ordering groceries) people can support SPUD:
Supply food to SPUD: “If you make or grow food, we would love to talk to you,” says Bourree. “We work with people who have been at the farmers’ markets for 10, 15 years, and we work with people for whom we may be their first foray into food retailing.
Work for SPUD: “We are hiring in pretty much every department,” says Bourree, adding ” if you’re excited and passionate about food it’s a really great, it’s an amazing opportunity.”
Volunteer with SPUD: SPUD has booths at community events and would welcome volunteers who enjoy talking about food.