Grocery delivery services since Webvan have mostly been about making food shopping more convenient than building new methods of food distribution. Some grocery chains like Safeway offer home delivery and say that it's "an important part of our overall sales strategy," but are merely building the new system on top of their existing infrastructure. East Coast delivery services like FreshDirect and Peapod sell a few local items, but mostly feature the same national brands you'd find in the grocery store. Other companies, like Instacart, hire someone to shop for you at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, but then you have to place your trust in a stranger's ability to choose avocados.

Good Eggs is able to avoid many of these pitfalls because it's built a new system from the ground up; it's as much a tech start-up as it is a food vendor. Co-founders Rob Spiro and Alon Salant both came from tech backgrounds. CEO Spiro developed the social search engine Aardvark, which he sold to Google, then worked as a product manager for Google+; CTO Salant co-founded technology-development shop Carbon Five. They've brought the disruption-happy Silicon Valley mentality to their new company. Good Eggs has all the earmarks of a Bay Area start-up, from the venture capital funding to the free chef-made lunch that employees enjoy every day. Engineers and product managers work at stand-up desks and huddle around whiteboards within feet of the warehouse's massive walk-in refrigerator and freezer.

These tech-focused employees, who make up about a third of the company's S.F. workforce, are responsible for the three proprietary programs that run the business: the storefront, the back-end, and the product-tracking system. For shoppers, there's a slick online storefront build for browsing. Every product has a gorgeous photo, mostly shot with a rustic wooden background at the Good Eggs HQ by the on-staff photographer. The product shots are accompanied by Facebookian headshots of their farmers and producers, not unlike Lyft and Uber, which tell you that "Ryan A." is coming to pick you up (and here's how friendly he looks). Good Eggs takes that social element one step further: As shoppers browse the store, they can learn all about the producers they're buying from — like lives of the pasture-raised animals at Wyland Orchards, or the soil type and organic farming techniques of Bloomfield Farms.

Producers have their own back-end, where they can track their orders and invoices and communicate directly with customers — a big time-saver for busy small business owners. And there's an elaborate tagging system that tracks and organizes the food from the moment it arrives in the warehouse to the moment it leaves on a truck, mostly revolving around plastic numbered bins on wheeled wire racks that house customer orders (dry goods stay out on the floor; perishable foods go into the walk-ins, divided by temperature zones to meet the specific storage needs of salad greens, salmon fillets, organic hummus, and so on, until they're packed in cold, insulated sleeves and grocery bags).

The company is filling between 200 and 300 orders a day, and though Spiro won't share any specific numbers, he says that orders are growing every week — a sentiment echoed by vendors who say they're also seeing their numbers rise. Spiro's plans for his company are ambitious: He says that, in addition to growing to 2,000 orders a day at the Dogpatch warehouse, about the daily sales volume of a regular supermarket, he wants to expand nationwide. To that end, Good Eggs has already opened small warehouses in Brooklyn, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Though the company is not yet profitable, Spiro says that it is on track to become so by the end of the year.

It's no surprise that all this new infrastructure raises prices, or that expensive niche products like gluten-free sourdough ($9/loaf), honey-lavender chevre ($16/8-ounce log), and even pasture-raised chickens ($18 for a small bird) are enjoyed by financially comfortable Bay Area locavores. Quite a few of the items that Good Eggs offers — the artisanal pickles, fancy vinegars, and luxe cupcakes of the world — will never be on a list of priorities for families just trying to put food on the table.

But some of the produce is more affordable — $3.50 doesn't seem unreasonable for that basket of unbelievably perfect strawberries picked that morning at Yerena Farms, say. It's hard to dispute that local food tastes better than the factory stuff; or that it's better for the environment, the community, and for your health. It's just a question of building systems that can get food into the hands of more than just the slice of consumers who have the expendable income to support local vendors.

Good Eggs is an example of a food hub, identified by the USDA as a growing sector of businesses that manage the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of small- and medium-sized local food producers. As recently as five years ago, these farmers and food-makers were limited to distribution at farmers markets and subscription services like community-supported agriculture, or CSAs, where customers pay up front for a set batch of items to be delivered to them every week, without much control over what's in the basket.

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12 comments
ahrengrauer
ahrengrauer

I'm an ex-pat living in Panama. The best produce you've ever had, chicken that actually has flavor, seafood is probably the best in the world. I don't see traditional shopping changing much here.

jenrose1
jenrose1

We started a local co-op about a year ago, in Oregon. It was kind of an accident, but once we started ordering our food as a group, it really took off. Now I get more than 80% of the food we eat from the co-op. We quip that we came for the prices and stayed for the quality. Being able to order the week's organic produce in my jammies and only having to pick it up once a month (people in my neighborhood deliver it the other weeks), combined with near-wholesale pricing  that makes organic produce, grass fed meats and gluten free baked goods affordable is an addictive combination. Not to mention the way it makes working with local farmers easier for us and for the farmers. There is almost no waste to our model, less gas, time and energy spent shopping, less money going out, better quality food coming in... I still buy the occasional stick of butter and bag of chips from our local grocery stores, but our diet has shifted to being more local, more seasonal, and a hell of a lot healthier. Time I used to spend shopping is now spent cooking. Instead of 3-4 shopping trips per week, I now make 3-4 shopping trips per month, and those are much smaller than they used to be. 

Social networks and the cloud make it possible for groups of people without tremendous programming skills to put together thriving groups that use google spreadsheets to order together in bulk. Facebook makes it easy to connect with people in the area. We've gone from a whim to 1100 members in under a year. We're eating the way we want to eat, and paying prices that don't hurt, while doing less harm to our planet. I finished my kid Christmas shopping in September. The adults will be taken care of this month. Our model means everyone is paid up front for exactly the amount of product that is needed. It is an efficient model. We are fortunate to have volunteers so that our overhead is very low, but even on a retail scale, the convenience and quality of food-on-demand vs. more "predictive" attempts to meet anticipated needs has much to offer.

mamablum
mamablum

I love Good Eggs and all that you stand for! It has been a joyful, healthful and exciting change in our lives!! Did I mention convenient? Each and every product I have received thus far has been absolutely fresh and delicious. I am into my third "big" order with you all and I rarely go to the "supermarket".  We are so fortunate to have this abundance in our own backyards. Love it all~here's to our health and the farmers who care!

lakawak
lakawak

Supermarkets will be around long after the last welfare recipient who "worked" at the SF Weekly has been laid in the ground.

thecrud
thecrud

The grocery store is now only for the rich or those with food stamps everyone else has to find another way, churches hunting growing your own barter rob and steal traffic drugs.


Barbara Mcwilliams
Barbara Mcwilliams

I learn something new every day & this qualifies as 'wonderful'.

Dante Forrest
Dante Forrest

Good the supermarket with chemical GMO food will be extinct

Parvati Ben
Parvati Ben

I saw this coming, bought on to it. Great idea. I'm a Good Eggs regular now.

thecrud
thecrud

@lakawak @thecrud 

Too bad you are to young to remember every shopping cart full to the top at the store. Not 3 items as they have today or standing in the meat departments not even half the size they use to be, just standing there not putting any in their carts.

You moron. Guess you have no powers of observation unable to draw a conclusion with a crayon. And no life other than troll unable to add anything useful to any public conversation.

A true loser.

 
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