Fruit Comes To The Door
In a post-Omnivore’s Dilemma world, we had a recent chance to participate in a service usually reserved for big cities – home delivery of organic produce.
Here in Montara (pop. 4000 or something; home to an Alpaca ranch, a cafe, and a convenience store but very little else commercial) there is a little produce stand called “Sweet Peas” and they’ve begun home delivery.
I don’t think I’ve ever had non-restaurant food delivered (and I can’t remember the last time I had restaurant food delivered at home). We were totally struck by our visit to the suburbs of Mumbai when our host called and ordered some bottles of water and cigarettes and they appeared a few minutes later. One of my first real design/research projects, in fact, was a grocery store home delivery service (pre-Webvan, in fact, pre-web). And many many years later, I finally experienced it.
They send out a Tuesday email with a spreadsheet; you fill it out and email it back that day and the food comes on Friday. Leave the resuable boxes (they have our names on a sticker) out next week and do it all over again
I’m intrigued by the complexity of the cultural factors that impact the experience, and here’s my first pass at it:
Home delivery – food comes to the door – time-saving and convenience
Organic – I admit I don’t care about this as a principle, but some of the food does taste better, richer, fresher. There’s a snob factor to organic as well that I’m sure I am participating in. Hey, those two boxes cost $41. The prices are definitely higher, but I’m trying not to compare apples and apples, if you will.
Local business – I am surprised at how much this appeals to me – maybe the lack of commerce in my area makes this more tangible. Maybe I can relate, as a small business myself. The fact that we walk our dog past the owner’s home and see the garage filled with produce boxes makes it more tangible; we’re presumably doing good for our community and helping someone we can point to make a living. Of course, our Safeway employs locally and shopping there gives people jobs well. But Safeway seems like The Man and this feels like Sticking It To The Man; a rare chance to feel some power, to have some choices. These delivery services have appeared over the past several years in big places like New York (where FreshDirect seems to have had a similar cultural impact to Starbucks) and Vancouver. We’re getting some of that big city flavor of small(er) business in our own small community.
Small farms – I don’t know if this true and I don’t care to verify it but I get the vibe that the producers of these products (perhaps because of the organic thing) are small businesses themselves, and as consumers we hear about the corporate farms and how that’s vaguely bad, so there’s a further flavor of Doing Good attached to this purchase.
Local farms – Again, I don’t know if this is true, but it’s part of the mythology of the service – but I’m guessing the food hasn’t come a long way (the stand itself highlights some local farms). We’re being told that having a product sit on a truck and burn fuel to go a long distance isn’t good for us or the environment.
Reactive eating – For our first purchase, we picked from a list, but Sweet Peas will also let you specify a weekly dollar amount and simply pick stuff for you based on what’s fresh that week. In combination with the local food thing, this suggests a different philosophy of food consumption, that we bend with nature rather than forcing it to our will through the magic of science
Surprise and Mass CustomizationBecause of their local and small nature, Sweet Peas seems very willing to help come up with a weekly menu that is some combination of staples (i.e., we always want 3 bananas) and what’s fresh (i.e., to make a total of $XX.XX). Even if we don’t make use of that, the flexibility and choice seem very appealing.