Greenling: Food 2.0?

Greenling is not exactly the typical high tech startup. Their product? Organic vegetables. Their service? Delivery to your door of high quality, fresh, organic vegetables.

Based in Austin and growing “organically” if you will, it will be fun to watch.

Grocery delivery? “I thought that was a dud.”

Why does this seem to work where grocery delivery never took off in the dotcom days? Well, grocery delivery actually has worked, in certain markets. Peapod, for example, still delivers in select densely populated markets. And many grocery chains offer in-house delivery services in selected regions.

Smarties in the business figured out that geographic factors have a lot to do with the opportunity for success in grocery delivery. What Greenling is perhaps figuring out is that product specialization might be another, perhaps better, success factor.

Let’s take a look:

As I wrote about in a previous post, choice abundance in the grocery store is off the charts. Offering a delivery service for 40,000+ items sounds like a logistical nightmare. By specializing, this “sku count” gets cut dramatically. Even if Greenling put in new categories one day, such as meats, they can still control expectations. By setting up the brand with a specialty focus, there will never be an expectation to get a 3 oz tube of Crest Tartar Control Peppermint flavor toothpaste along with my produce.

On the other side of the coin, as a consumer, the specialization is more compelling than grocery delivery in general. The mental leap from Albertson’s to home delivery is actually gigantic for families. Grocery shopping is an integral part of our survival routines. Even if home delivery makes sense, getting people to make this leap is challenging. It’s a big behavior shift and the level of convincing required to make it is high. Catalyzing trial is much easier said than done. But, with a specialization, the mental shift is easier. Organic is specific. Produce is specific. Fresh organic produce is very specific. It is either challenging or impossible to go to Albertson’s to get fresh organic produce with the selection Greenling offers. So the behavior switch is natural. If a consumer has a desire for this type of product, there is no behavior switch–no mental competition of inertia. In many ways, home delivery is secondary; it’s about being the choice brand for the product itself–organic produce. In other words, home delivery is a great feature, maybe even the compelling feature for many customers. But I don’t think it’s the core value proposition.

Unfortunately, I like my steady diet of fast food and Diet Coke too much to sign up just yet. But one day, I’m sure I will grow up diet-wise and on that day, I hope Greenling can deliver to my zip code!


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