Written by Spencer Cowley, Writer/Editor at Byvi
Grocery and meal kit delivery services have exploded over the last five years, with more shoppers opting for the ecommerce experience over regular trips to the market. However, this growth in the industry has seen an even steeper incline since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to eMarketer, online grocery sales in the United States rose 54% in 2020. Grocery delivery in Canada has followed a similar, but less dramatic trajectory. Statista stated that 17% of Canadians shopped for groceries online in 2020, which was a large increase over only 5% in 2016.
Aside from the convenience offered by online food shopping, there’s an abundance of brands and products beyond traditional grocery chains and meal kit services. As consumers are continually becoming more focused on health and wellness, sustainability and social responsibility, they are being more deliberate in their food shopping and overall diets.
Deloitte’s 2021 Food Consumer Survey showed Canadian shoppers were purchasing more products that were locally sourced, had recognizable ingredients and were natural or organic. Over the last year, 64% of consumers say they’ve become more interested in how their diets affect their overall health and immunity.
That’s why a startup like Rise Market is beginning to find its footing in the Canadian online grocery industry — the Ontario-based ecommerce startup delivers healthy and affordable groceries and supplements that feed the evolving desires of Canadian consumers. Though it doesn’t yet have the scale of big box grocery chains or the deep range of products, Rise Market is focusing its efforts on health-conscious consumers who are looking to buy better for their bodies and for society.
Adopting the membership model for healthier groceries
Rise Market is not unique in its subscription model — the likes of which is found at U.S. retailers like Costco or Thrive Market — but it is unique in the Canadian grocery market. According to Joel Fox, co-founder of Rise Market, this model was implemented out of the simple desire to offer affordability on healthy products, which are typically more expensive.
“How do we make [our membership] be like Amazon Prime, where you don’t even think about it?” Fox ponders.
“We’re always focused on servicing our members and bringing them additional value through new products, services and meaningful partnerships. ”JOEL FOX, FOUNDER At RISE MARKET
Thanks to Rise Market’s affordable yearly membership, shoppers can save up to 40% on average for every product on the site. That means everything from healthy baking products to canned goods to snacks and supplements are more affordable every time a member is ready to restock or discover something new. Plus, 75% of Rise Market’s products are sourced from small and local Canadian brands.
Rising above the challenges
Right now, Rise Market memberships are only available to residents of Ontario, but the startup has good reason to be starting there. Ontario has a population of over 14.5 million, nearly 40% of the entire Canadian population. Fox believes that if Rise Market can get their business right in Ontario first, the rest of the provinces will follow.
One reason that expansion in Canada is so difficult is the prohibitive cost of shipping and the scale of the audience outside of more densely populated provinces like Ontario. Rise Market is the sort of business that really works at scale, so getting to the rest of the country will be a key factor in their success. However, Fox and his team know that they need to display enough success factors in their current, limited scale before any further expansion.
Another core step toward getting an ecommerce business right is building a simple and enjoyable online marketplace. This turned out to be an unexpected challenge for Fox and his fellow founders after they had discovered security flaws in their initial platform of choice. They moved to a Shopify build that is relatively seamless, but the team is currently exploring even more effective long-term options for their online marketplace.
Rising together: How partnerships make Rise Market unique
Fox’s career has zig-zagged him around the corporate and financial world, between business consulting and banking, but his time spent working on strategic partnerships stuck with him. This experience has been valuable as building mutually beneficial partnerships with Canadian food and supplement brands has been key to Rise Market’s early success.
Fox and the Rise Market team have discovered that brands can go through quite a slog in trying to work with big box grocery stores. Pairing this challenge with Rise Market’s goal of delivering the best variety of new, quality products, it made sense for the company to form direct partnerships with many different local brands.
Building direct relationships with brands was not an easy task, especially when Rise was considerably less well known. However, this small business-driven approach supports the local community and helps Rise Market deliver undiscovered goods that fit into the categories that Canadian consumers are increasingly focusing on — local, organic, plant-based, non-GMO, etc.
Rising to the call for CSR
Rise Market goes beyond just supporting small food producers in its business model. Fox considers corporate social responsibility to be “table stakes” at this point, especially with the pandemic still in the peripheral. So, the team wanted Rise Market to be as much a force for good as it was a connector of local brands and health-conscious consumers.
That’s why, for every membership purchased, Rise Market donates a free membership to a frontline worker. This token of gratitude is just one small gesture to start, Fox says. Rise Market goes even further, though, as they also frequently donate food to local food banks in Ontario.
Rise Market: Ready to keep climbing
Fox and his team are proud of the loyal members they’re already supporting and the small Canadian companies with whom they’ve partnered. Moving forward, they want to continue to expand their product lines and truly make Rise Market membership a no-brainer. Among refinements to their online marketplace build, Fox hopes Rise Market can secure more funding to boost their marketing budget, gather a larger membership base and expand infrastructure to serve shoppers and brands across the country.
For now, though, Ontarians looking to find new products that are good for their health, their wallets and their communities can try a Rise Market membership free for 30 days. It seems to be only upwards from here in terms of the amount of healthy foods and supplements that shoppers can enjoy, all without ever leaving the comfort of their couches.
WRITTEN BY Spencer Cowley
Writer & Editor at BYVI and Founder at Cowley Creative. Writing his way towards a meaningful impact on the world.