GoJava pivots to grocery home delivery

The coffee and snack start-up used its resources to keep the lights on and help deal with steadily increasing demand.

The grocery online order backlog is growing as people try to limit their time in-store, but delivery service GoJava is stepping in to meet demand by pivoting to offer next day grocery home delivery.

GoJava is a sustainable coffee and snack delivery service that reaches 700 offices in Toronto and Ottawa, but in recent weeks has expanded its services and launched a sister site for grocery.

Items available to order include fresh produce, meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, prepared meals, bread, baby and home products, and some frozen offerings. It also is selling GoJava’s usual assortment of coffee, tea, cold beverages and healthy snacks.

Eugene Ace, GoJava’s founder and CEO, says expansion into grocery home delivery “was not on our minds at all,” but the COVID-19 outbreak took its regular business, “from 100 to zero very quickly” as downtown office spaces cleared out and people began working remotely. It went from 80 orders a day to less than 10, and the orders it was getting were smaller than average.

Ace believes the majority of clients will come back as soon as social distancing eases up, but it is anyone’s guess as to when that will happen.

“We are a small start-up and don’t have a tonne of cash reserves, so we either send everyone home and shut down, or try and figure something new out,” Ace says.

Luckily, the company was well-positioned to pivot, with a network of vans, drivers, and suppliers. It’s existing safety procedures made it easier to adapt to a contactless delivery world.

Everything moved quickly, emailing all of its office customers to let them know the new site might be helpful after launching last week, before turning to organic social and PR outreach.”

“We may do some social marketing and put dollars toward it, but right now we are relying on word of mouth,” Ace says.

He says that the grocery delivery demographic is a slightly broader one from its core workplace business, extending to “regular people” at home.

The first two days had 30 orders and $5,000 in revenue coming in, “which is good based on our experience and history.” Ace says, adding that it has capacity to do 400-500 orders per day.

To launch, GoJava has been trying to list as many essentials as possible as it gets a better sense of where demand is.

“It’s our first week, so we scrambled to find products we could source. Over next few weeks, variety and products will double. We are just working as fast as we can to get relevant things in there,” Ace says.

Despite delivering groceries, the brand has kept its coffee-centred name, GoJava, as it is somewhat known. He says that as soon as people see it’s like a regular grocery store, there won’t be confusion about its offerings.

On the office side of the business, GoJava is focused on planting trees and being carbon neutral on deliveries. He says going forward, it wants to carry on its sustainability ethos and having a cause for this sister grocery business as well: “As a cause, right now, I am thinking about environmental or whether it’ll be related to food needs in the community, like food banks,” Ace says.

Competition is “anyone else who is delivering groceries” Ace says, “but in the funny world we live in today, there is so much demand, so you’re not really stealing customers from one another, just offering services that are so taxed right now. I think everyone offering delivery has a huge backlog. Which is why we kinda stepped in to say we have capacity, we can deliver stuff.”