HOME chefs are looking to cyberspace for exotic ingredients not found in supermarkets.
Those who want everyday food and items at lower prices and desire convenience are also going online – as are those who just want to stay away from crowds to avoid getting the H1N1 flu.
A check by The Straits Times turned up at least 13 online gourmet food and grocery stores, all doing decent business.
One boutique online-only gourmet store, Green Grocer, gets about 300 orders a month – three times more than two years ago – for its range of exotic meats such as quail.
Another store, The Butcher, has enjoyed 20 percent growth every year.
Online grocery stores hawking anything from drinks to canned food and toiletries have had at least a 30 percent jump in sales month on month.
These include Yumtrade.com, myonlinegroceries.com, and Online Grocery.
Established brick-and-mortar supermarket chains have also seen healthy increases in the number of customers who buy from them online: NTUC FairPrice had an 80 percent increase last year from the year before; Cold Storage has been clocking a ‘double digit’ increase every year.
New online businesses are joining the fold: The Fishmonger, which opened its online shop in February, delivers seafood like Bluenose fillets, Australian lobsters, and Tasmanian blue mussels and scallops to homes straight from its factory.
So does Green Grocer. Customers say they are enjoying the unrivaled freshness in the food from such stores.
Green Grocer customer Rowene Law, 32, said: ‘By the time meat reaches the shelves at supermarkets, it is not as fresh. But when I order online, it comes straight from the wholesale supplier.’
For Ms. Law, who works in marketing, other perks are that she can get foods not found in supermarkets; the prawns, codfish, and Hokkaido scallops also cost slightly less than at the supermarket.
Housewife Anna Low, 38, is also a fan of ordering straight from the supplier. She gets her heavy sacks of rice from See Hoy Chan’s online store, which is fuss-free and cheaper, she said.
People are going for everyday groceries and toiletries to enjoy savings in bulk, which some online stores offer. Yumtrade for example gives bulk discounts of between 3 and 12 percent, and even a 1 percent ‘green rebate’ as it does not use plastic bags. Deliveries arrive in boxes, which are unloaded and brought back to the store for re-use.
Online grocery shopping is popular among expatriate housewives, who find shopping for routine items a chore, said Ms. Sally Tan, manager of Yumtrade.com.
Deliveries are also made to that home-bound by circumstance – the bedridden, the elderly, the pregnant, and those in confinement, for instance.
Yumtrade even has a core of overseas customers who like Khong Guan biscuits and Lipton tea.
Ms. Amanda Phan, public relations manager of Green Grocer, credits television’s celebrity chefs for raising people’s awareness of and appreciation for quality food.
Stores like FairPrice have noticed that their online sales tend to spike when there is the threat of the spread of disease, such as during Sars, bird flu, and now, the H1N1 flu. This could be because some customers prefer to stay home as a precautionary measure, said Mr. Gerry Lee, FairPrice’s deputy managing director for group business.
Converts like Mrs. Low are not looking back. ‘I have three small children – two of them twins – and a husband who hates to shop. I don’t really have a choice.’
For a $5 delivery charge, she can make the irksome task of shopping go away.
Sat, Jun 27, 2009
The Straits Times
By Tan Weizhen