March 24th, 2015
Grocery shopping has never been a chore to me. I relish the time we spend at the farmers’ market every week, and even more routine trips to the Italian Centre or Superstore are an opportunity to observe commercial and product trends.
But I know not everyone feels the same way about a necessary task. In Ontario, Loblaws launched a “click-and collect” program back in October, offering customers the convenience of putting together an order of groceries and other products online which would be ready for pick-up at a designated time. While that system hasn’t been implemented outside of the GTA, Edmonton does have two grocery delivery services. Unlike the range of items offered by conventional grocery stores, however, the two services emphasize local and organic products. The Organic Box has been in business for several years, while Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery, or SPUD, is the relative newcomer to Edmonton. SPUD began its first deliveries in October (for the record, the Good Food Box run by Live Local Edmonton was the first of such services, but is no longer in operation).
SPUD differs from The Organic Box in that it does not require a membership fee and has no minimum commitment. Delivery is also free for most orders.
Two weeks ago, I received a complimentary SPUD delivery to try out the service for myself. I was interested in seeing how seamless the process would be, from selecting products to the delivery itself.
Of course, selection is paramount in a service like this. Given the current winter season, I knew the selection of local vegetables might be slim, but SPUD does source from some Alberta producers I’m not familiar with, such as Mans Organic and Poplar Bluff Farm. They also have more recognizable names, such as Gull Valley Greenhouses, Reclaim Urban Farm and Lund’s. As expected, however, to fill out the quotient of organic produce readily available at grocery stores, countries of origin were as far away as Chile or Peru.
Local producers were better represented on the meat and dairy side – SunWorks and Olsons High Country for meat, Vital Greens and Rock Ridge for milk, Bles Wold for (our go-to) yogurt and The Cheesiry for cheese. Other Edmonton-based businesses that supply products to SPUD include Transcend Coffee, Prairie Mill, Honest Dumplings, Jacek Chocolate Couture, Cookie Love, La Oliva, Bloom Cookie Co., and the most recent addition, Glow Juicery. I appreciated the “local products” section, which contained the products supplied by all of the Alberta-based companies.
On a side note, personal care and cleaning products are also available, with an emphasis on natural and environmentally-friendly options. I suppose this again goes to SPUD’s desire to be a “one-stop shop”, but without a doubt, the convenience would definitely come with a price.
Once I was logged in, ordering was a breeze. I liked the running tally of items on the left hand side of the screen, which also reminded me how quickly the total can be ratcheted upwards. I ordered a variety of fresh, frozen and non-perishable items, but, as is our shopping tendency, focused more on locally-sourced products.
I submitted my order by 3pm on Monday, which meant my SPUD box would be delivered the following evening, between 3-9pm, as per my downtown zone. Living in a condo unit, I was most concerned about the security of the drop-off, as I wouldn’t trust that the box would remain safe and untouched in our lobby. Thankfully, allaying my concerns was a priority for the SPUD staff, who connected with me by e-mail and requested specific instructions. They were able to include a note to the delivery driver about calling us upon arrival to be buzzed up to our floor. When we arrived home late Tuesday evening, we found the box waiting for us in front of our unit door.
Opening the box, we found that products were separated into different packaging sleeves, with refrigerated and frozen items packed into insulated sleeves with adjacent ice packs and dry ice. It was obvious everything was put together with care and attention.
Packed with care
Over the next couple of weeks, we enjoyed most of the contents of the box.
We fried up the Honest Dumplings and sprinkled Reclaim Urban Farm cilantro microgreens overtop. The SunWorks stew meat combined with the Poplar Bluff carrots, Lund’s parsnips, Steinke Family Farm potatoes and Noble Spuds onions for a fabulous stew. We used the Olsons High Country bison pepperoni to top our homemade pizza.
Honest Dumplings with Reclaim Urban Farm microgreens
We found the ingredients to be of high quality, and comparable to what we might pick up at a farmers’ market. SPUD definitely introduced us to some Alberta producers we hadn’t really known before – at the Calgary Farmers’ Market the following weekend, it was nice to see the Olsons High Country booth and their breadth of products in person.
Pizza with Olsons High Country bison pepperoni
As I mentioned, my preference is to buy direct from producers whenever possible, so I can’t see myself becoming a regular SPUD customer. However, I could see occasions where SPUD could come in handy – a particularly busy week, returning from travels, gifting a box to a new mom or a time-crunched friend. I know SPUD Edmonton is also continuously adding more local producers, and likely, with the spring, the selection will increase even more.
Thanks again to SPUD for the opportunity to try out the service!