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Grocery shopping that’s fresh, fast and frictionless

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 07, 2020 5:00 pm

One of the lifestyle changes wrought by this new normal is the way we buy groceries. I don’t know about you, but going to the supermarket pre-pandemic never ranked as one of my favorite activities, and COVID turned it into an outright nightmare when we had to endure three-hour lines, panic buying and empty shelves.

To avoid going to wet markets and groceries, my family took to ordering food from the many Viber threads circulating within our village, but they were so specialized we had to order food from about a dozen threads (I remember the time my nephew wanted French fries for his birthday, and we had to buy it from a special “French fry” thread), plus the goods were more expensive than at the supermarket, because they included middleman charges and delivery fees.

Enter the grocery app, which in the new normal seems to be the smartest way to shop for food. Thus far, the best grocery app I’ve encountered is COOP Grocer. For one, even if I suddenly get a whim to order a bottle of Aperol (to make my favorite cocktail, Aperol Spritz) at close to midnight, not only do they have it, they guarantee it’ll be delivered the very next day. Now, how many grocery apps can guarantee that?

Farm to your table: COOP Grocer sources directly from Benguet farmers to cut out middleman charges and bring down the costs of its Araw Araw goods for customers

“COOP was born out of the idea of what it means to be frictionless,” says COOP Grocer CEO Sophia Sulisto. “Great customer service to us means the order you placed is the order you will get.”

The COOP Grocer experience starts with the app. Easy to navigate and beautifully designed — sporting a modern, clean look — click on a food category like “Vegetables” and it gives you a drop-down list of all your options and prices. Or, if you’re in a hurry, conduct a search for a specific product. Special finds include freshly baked Eric Kayser bread, Harlan + Holden bottled coffee and matcha drinks, and alternative milks like oat and almond.

Other categories I found intriguing enough to investigate were “Ready Made,” featuring pasta sets, salad dressings and various cold cuts, “Indulge” (local and imported snacks), “WFH” (office supplies), “Selfcare” (masks, sanitizers and toiletries), “OTC” and “RX” (the widest range of over-the-counter medicines for adults and kids), even “Korean” and “Asian” for grocery items from those beloved countries so popular of late.

COOP Grocer’s Araw Araw produce includes cabbage
...and tomatoes

For daily essentials like fresh produce, COOP cuts out middleman charges entirely by going directly to farmers to bring down the costs of what they call their “Araw Araw” (Everyday) goods. Handling the logistics of their produce — from the farmers to the COOP fulfillment center — means not only lower prices for us customers, but also more profit for their farmers.

Since prices fluctuate daily for fresh produce due to weather, the harvest, and deliveries, COOP Grocer’s buying team checks the prices of physical stores weekly to ensure that the prices of their Araw Araw produce are lower than brick-and-mortar supermarkets’.

What you pay for is what you get,” assures Sulisto. “At the check-out page, your order is scanned through our inventory system to check stock. This will help eliminate the out-of-stock situation and substitutions for our customers. Our aim is 100-percent accuracy; right now we are at 97 percent. Also, COOP owns all of the inventory, so you don’t pay for any personal shopping fee.”

COOP also offers the freshest range of produce, a lot of it sourced from Benguet farmers. In addition to Araw Araw is in-house label COOP Fresh, non-GMO produce with no growth hormones, antibiotics or pesticides. Since the pandemic’s made me realize that food is our medicine and our medicine should be the freshest-quality whole foods, options like COOP Fresh are more important than ever.

COOP Grocer takes real-time inventory of its fresh produce to avoid out-of-stock situations

They also adhere to sustainable best practices. According to Sulisto, they try to minimize food waste as much as possible: “Because we need to provide the assortment and range to our customers, there will of course be spoilage,” she acknowledges. “So, right before spoiling, the produce is taken out of the store, and converted into staff meals.”

They also try to use as little plastic as possible: “It is still needed as we have to ensure separation of wet and dry goods just for food safety and for delivery safety,” she says, adding that “all boxes we use are recycled boxes.”

And they’re skimpy with gas consumption, making it a more eco-friendly service. “At 12:01 a.m. when all the orders are in, we have an algorithm that plots the delivery schedule as efficiently as possible to help lessen gasoline waste.”

COOP Grocer’s tilpapia
The freshest suahe

But my favorite feature has to be the next-day-delivery guarantee. “Whether we have one customer or 1,000 customers, if someone places an order by 11:59 p.m., we must fulfill that and get that order to the customer the next day,” Sulisto promises. “Coop doesn’t have cutoff times or delivery windows.”

I tested that by ordering my groceries — not at 11:59 — but quite late at night, and sure enough, I got a text from Raffi of COOP Grocer at 7 the next morning, saying, “Just want to inform you that your order will be delivered today between 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.”

Three hours later, I got another text from Alan of COOP Customer Interface telling me that my order was booked for delivery, and again after 20 minutes telling me it had arrived, with the driver ready to meet at the gate for no-touch delivery.

French beans

There’s definitely no better way to describe that experience than “frictionless” and “fresh.”

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Download the COOP Grocer app from the App Store and Google Play.

Follow the author on Instagram @theresejamoragarceau and Facebook (Therese Jamora-Garceau).