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Is the Warehouse Model the Future For Grocery Stores?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday May 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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If deliveries completely replaced shopping in “distant stores” there might be a 80 to 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions, according to George Monbiot in his 2007 book, Heat. Monbiot acknowledged that will not happen. However, delivery only grocery stores have a lower overhead because you do not need displays, cash registers, and “fancy packaging.” Monbiot calls delivery only stores the “warehouse model,” and believes that it “allows far more companies to play.” Online grocery store, SPUD (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery) would agree.
SPUD describes itself as “an organic grocery delivery company.” It delivers 100 percent organic fruits and vegetables. Fifty percent of its grocery products are organic, and do not contain additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients. Any animal products come from suppliers who do not use hormones or antibiotics. The delivery is free for most orders, and the company claims its prices are “competitive.” Most of their produce is brought in and delivered within 24 hours.


Serving over 19,000 customers, SPUD started 11 years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is now in Victoria, Calgary, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. SPUD gives back to the communities it is located in through its Community Care program. Last year it contributed over $50,000 to local community groups.
SPUD CEO and founder, David Van Seters started the company with $150,000 of his own money. Van Seters said he started it because he wanted to launch a business that “integrated environmental, social, and economic values.” He also wanted to create a sustainable business related to what he terms the “four major individual lifestyle choices that impact the environment.” The four choices are: sustainable transportation, sustainable building, sustainable consumption, and sustainable agriculture.
Van Seters considers SPUD to be a “lifestyle enhancement business.” It is about more than just simplifying someone’s busy life, but “enhancing their lives in the broader sense of having a better quality environment and healthier communities.”
People can makes a “significant positive change with virtually no effort” by purchasing groceries from SPUD, Van Seters said. “They just shift their purchases from one source to another, and then not only are they saving time to do better things with their lives, they are automatically reducing food miles, eliminating plastic bags, avoiding pesticides on crops and so on.” He believes SPUD will continue to grow as long as it continues to help its customers “reduce their food miles.”


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  • Kat

    How is there a reduction in carbon emissions? What’s the difference between me driving to the grocery store vs. the grocery store driving to me?
    I fail to see the improvement here. Especially considering the wide availability of local farmer’s markets these days.

  • http://spud.com David Van Seters

    Hi Kat, it may not seem obvious but the reduction in carbon emissions is very significant. When one of our delivery vans leaves our warehouse with 80 orders for delivery in a particular neighbourhood, we travel less than 30% of the distance of 80 cars traveling separately to their local grocery store AND back. Even though our delivery vans use more fuel per mile there is more than a 50% reduction in fuel and associated greenhouse gas emissions per order.
    While farmer’s markets are fabulous and a much better option than going to the grocery store, they only supply a portion of a family’s grocery needs, thereby not really helping to reduce grocery trips. At spud! we offer a full range of groceries (including dishwashing liquid, toilet paper, shampoo, etc.) so that our customers can truly avoid shopping trips and reduce their carbon footprint.
    We are also passionate about sourcing our products as locally as possible to further reduce our carbon footprint and support local suppliers. We are the only grocery rtailer in North America that actually publishes the food miles of each one of our products. Our average grocery product travels about 500 miles from where it is grown/produced to get to our warehouse, compared with 1500 miles for the average grocery store product.

  • http://quenchonline.com Quench water coolers

    I hope spud works better than its predecessors — Webvan in particular. The company also has to expand in time but not too rapidly

  • proaupair

    All those screaming fans certainly did help. Its amazing how much energy they can give you. Im sad to hear that you didnt change your mind about future marathons, but Im very happy that you were able to have fun with this one and go out on a good note. Oh, and, good job not getting the jacket those things are obnoxious. :-)