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Online groceries: How Winder Farms is changing the way we buy fresh food, pt. 2

Fresh bell peppers from Winder Farms
Fresh bell peppers from Winder FarmsEdward Simon

In part 1 of the Examiner's interview with Mike Dutton, CEO of Winder Farms, he explained how the trends are changing and some of the advantages of getting fresh produce, dairy and groceries delivered through online ordering. He also described the benefits of locally-sourced foods and the difference between local and organic produce. In part 2, Mike discusses the benefits of home delivery for various types of home cooks, as well as why online ordering and delivery is an idea who time has come.

Mike Dutton, CEO of Winder Farms, an online grocery ordering and home delivery company
Mike Dutton, CEO of Winder Farms, an online grocery ordering and home delivery companyCourtesy of Winder Farms

Mike explained that there are several types of cooks that benefit from Winder Farm's home delivery program. One type of person is someone who can't plan ahead or who just has to 'wing it', needing to shop every time they need something. He said, “I actually think our service works better for people who don't plan their meals ahead. What we will do is set you up with a regular delivery day. That way, you know that every Wednesday morning when you wake up, you're going to go to your front porch and you're going to have these products delivered to you. You don't have to think about it, versus if you're planning your meals in advance and have to sit down with a grocery list and then go to a website and then order it, then wait for it to be delivered, to us, we think that is too cumbersome”.

Mike continued, “So what we say is, 'Set these other items up on basically auto-ship and we're going to deliver it to them every week, because they're really not varying very much in what you need of your staples'. Now if you want to change it, you can always get online and change it. Probably a third of our customers change their orders every week, but if you don't, then you're never going to run out of those fresh items that you consume regularly. I never get the call on the way home from work, 'hey, can you swing by the store because we're out of milk for the kids cereal'. That's just not going to happen to the Winder customers”.

Another type of cook also benefits from home delivery, in many ways because there just isn't enough time in the day to shop the way that is needed. Mike said, “Our core target market is the busy mom. They want to feed the family healthy, they're time-starved, they're incredibly busy, and so we make it easy for them in a couple of ways. We deliver those fresh foods to their house so they're not relying upon the package goods that they're buying in the grocery store. They can see here that they're going to gain more time because they're making less trips to the grocery store and they can feed their family better. The other things are these meal solutions, so they can add a couple of those to their order so if you get in a time pinch, instead of going thru the drive-thru, you can get home, pop this healthy meal into the microwave and feed your family in a matter of minutes. If you talk to people about why they signed up for Winder, they will tell you, 'I signed up for Winder first for convenience and second for product quality”.

Mike talked about the numbers that are reflected in the growing trend to ordering online. He said, “So what we look at is what we say, 'if you look at food, food purchases are about 12% of GDP. It's an enormous market, people spend over a trillion dollars each year in America on food. Yet less than 1% of that is purchased online today. If you look at any other consumer category, almost 50% of those products in some categories are now bought online. There's no reason that over time, consumers aren't going to demand more food purchased online. That's one major trend in our favor, what we need to make sure we do as a company is make sure we are evolving to the tastes of our customers. So that means create a product selection so that today we have 400 items; again we are not trying to be all things to all people, but today we have over 400 fresh items and we'll probably double that in the next two years, just to make sure that we're serving a greater portion of the food needs of our customers”.

Mike went on to describe how the technology is changing the way we shop. According to Mike Dutton, “The other thing we are thinking about is that how can we, through technology, make it easier for people to shop with us, but more importantly, make it easier for them to plan their food for the week. Everybody wants to eat healthier but there's not great tools today to allow them to do that. So we think that if we can combine those tools with our ordering system, with our fresh supply chain, then we can actually help people meet their goals of eating healthier. That's what we're really focussed on, is making sure that we're in the right position, to capture this wave, this growing demand for food purchases and then evolving our service so that we meet changing consumer tastes”.

Mike Dutton feels that the best way to experience online ordering is just to try it. He said, “The best way for people to use the service is to get on the website, sign up and give it a try. We realize that shopping for your food online for many people is a new experience and it takes some getting used to, having products delivered to your door. You've got to remember, 'Oh yeah, my product is coming tomorrow, did I change my order?'. You've got to think about it a little bit. We tell people, 'yes, we get that'. Just get online and try us. There's really no risk to trying our service. If you like it, then you're going to stick with us for a very long time”.

Even though Winder Farms has only been active in online ordering for a while, they have been in the home grocery delivery business for many years. Mike told about an old customer, saying, “We just talked with a customer a few weeks ago who'd been a customer of ours for literally fifty years. There are many customers who say, 'You know what? Winder makes it so easy for me to feed healthy food to my family'. If you're one of those people who say, 'I'd love to have that fresh food delivered to my door', give it a try and see if you like it. That's really the best way to try it. We've got ratings fans, we've got great reviews, we've got products on lour website'. Our chocolate milk just won first place in the world. We really try to source the best product that we can and this year we'll make almost two million deliveries. People value that service”.

The bottom line for Mike is the experience. He described his own feelings about food. “Food should be fun! I'm in this business because I love food. I think our customers love to experiment with new, fresh foods, and if you make food fresh and fun and it tastes great, people will eat healthier. Again, going back to our mission, we're in the business of building heathy communities through great food, so we can inspire people to eat healthier, we can build a better local food economy by buying local, there's a great virtual cycle there that makes it really fun to work at this company”. It certainly seems that Winder Farm's concept of online ordering and fresh grocery deliveries, as well as supporting local Orange County growers and bakers, is a great way to simplify the lifestyle of busy, creative and health-conscious cooks throughout Orange County.