Will Relay Foods bring the online grocery biz back to life?

An online grocery company is looking to buck the trend its predecessors faced and score big with a business model that delivers locally sourced food to customers at convenient dropoff locations.

Charlottesville-based Relay Foods expanded into Richmond last year and plans to push slowly into neighboring Mid-Atlantic states, according to a report on Forbes.com.

Relay CEO Zach Buckner said the idea came from watching the failures of the first generation of online grocery ordering businesses, most notably WebVan, which went belly up in 2001, a year and half after raising $375 million in an IPO.

Taking lessons from the past, Relay Foods is growing slowly and steadily, by an average 20 percent a month, Buckner told Forbes.

From the article:

“We set out with a very different mission constrained on the idea that this has to make money,” says Buckner. “If you can imagine a convenience scale of zero being plowing the wheat yourself and ten being the Webvan model of driving groceries to your door and putting them in your refrigerator. We decided we weren’t going to be a ten. We were going to be an eight— but a profitable eight.”

Buckner readily admits there are scary logistics problems in the internet delivery business: “I don’t want people thinking that by following this recipe, they can do this themselves. We’ve built out specialized systems for everything—how to keep cold things cold, how to alert vendors to packing lists in the middle of the night– the backend is literally my life’s technical investment.”

BizSense wrote about the debut of RelayFoods in Richmond last August.






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Mike Bucci
Mike Bucci
10 years ago

20% per month is slow and steady growth?