A startup called Portobel is working to help food manufacturers move their businesses around so they can support deliveries directly to the consumer.
Postage is supported by Heroic Ventures and led by Ranjith Kumaran, founder or co-founder of the file sharing company Hightail (acquired by OpenText) and the loyalty startup PunchTab (acquired by Walmart Labs).
Kumaran told me that he and his co-founders Ted Everson and Itai Maron started with the goal of improving the delivery process by using low-cost, internet-connected devices to track every order. When they started testing this – mostly with dairy companies and other perishable goods manufacturers – customers asked, "Hey, you can monitor these things, can you actually deliver these things?"
Last year the company started delivering its own warehouses and managing its own drivers. Kumaran said the resulting process is "a machine that turns wholesale pallets into deliveries directly to consumers."
He also emphasized that during the pandemic, the company takes safety precautions to ensure that all warehouse workers and drivers have masks and other protective equipment, and that drivers use hand sanitizers between deliveries.
Portobel currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Los Angeles / Orange County. Kumaran said the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated demand for the startup's services, as the number of households it serves has tripled since April.
This may sound a little surprising since supermarkets were basically the only store that customers still visit regularly. There are also a number of food delivery options.
However, Kumaran suggested that the D2C model be better for both manufacturers and consumers. The manufacturers receive recurring orders for larger food packages. And for consumers: "If you buy directly from the wholesaler, everything is in stock."
In terms of delivery, he said that if you buy your groceries online, things will be packaged and shipped at your local store. "
"Put all these things aside about choice and availability – the modern grocery store isn't set up for efficient e-commerce delivery," he added. "You have to block the aisles to pick up the product. There is no special place for shipping deliveries." So if you've tried (grocery delivery), there are unpredictable delivery windows. It’s a challenge for these people to scale online. "
Portobel's customers include the San Francisco-based food company Moo Cow Market. In a statement, Moo Cow founder, Alexandra Mysoor, said: “The pandemic has driven retail as we know it into a new wave, merging and merging all past and present forms of trading. Enterprises like the Moo Cow Market enter here and can scale and grow thanks to services like Portobel. "