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Online Groceries Offer Fresh Products on the Web

By Shang-Lin Chuang
News Editor

In the midst of LaVerde's Market in the Student Center, Purity Supreme in Central Square, and the various Star Markets in the area, students might not think about the local grocery options that exist on the World Wide Web

The Smart-Food Co-op and Groceries To Go - two online grocery stores both founded by MIT alumni - offer everything a regular grocery store offers but do it through the convenience of the Internet. Customers place orders on the Web 24 hours a day, and their orders are ready the next day.

Both the Smart-Food Co-op and Groceries to Go boast competitive pricing because of their low overhead costs. The stores offer fresh produce and meat that go straight from wholesaler to customer.

Smart-Food Co-op

The Smart-Food Co-op originated informally at the Institute in 1980 as the Student Food Co-op. It started as a cooperative effort among the residents of Zeta Beta Tau, French House, and Ashdown House to save money and time by buying food in bulk. But when the coordinating students graduated in 1983, the co-op ceased to exist.

Ten years later in 1993, the concept of a food cooperative among students was revived. This time, the Smart Food Co-op - the group's new name - became an official organization with coordinators who had already graduated and had themselves ventured into the food industry.

The SFC evolved one more time to its present state on the Web. On the Internet, the SFC has allowed shopping to become faster, easier, and more efficient, said Vice-President Chon Vo '83.

SFC's main objective is to provide a free delivery service of available meat, produce, and other grocery products at discount prices to members, Vo said. Using the SFC, customers can save money and reduce shopping time, he said.

SFC customers are be required to complete a one-time registration. Membership is free, Vo said

Members will always receive the best price for products, Vo said. Prices will either be based on the wholesale prices with a markup - which will still be less than the retail market price - or the cheapest supermarket retail market prices without a markup.

The SFC offers over 1,500 popular items, including most of the fresh meat, seafood, and vegetables that can be purchased from wholesalers.

All orders placed by midnight can be delivered on any day of the week - except Sunday - starting 5 p.m. the next day.

Members can pay by either cash or check on delivery. Alternatively, members can send $100 check to SFC and have a debit account set up.

SFC is now in the middle of moving to a larger warehouse in order to accommodate their larger number of customers. Service has been interrupted and will resume in approximately two weeks.

Products offered and delivery times can be accessed through http://www.smartfood.com.

Groceries To Go

Online grocery shopping is convenient because customers can see the prices, descriptions, sizes, and even nutritional information right in front of them, said founder David S. Cuthbert SM '94.

Started in September, Groceries To Go allows customers to place their orders on the Web and pick up their groceries the next day at their warehouse, which is open from noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to Saturdays.

Currently, deliveries are made only to Tang Hall Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Customers are attracted to the flexibility and convenience of online shopping, Cuthbert said. But they can actually save money and shop better, too.

Members will be allowed to save their shopping lists and access them later, Cuthbert said. This allows the customers to save even more time.

"Quality is critical to us," Cuthbert said. "We find the best suppliers that will provide the freshest food."

Cuthbert stressed the communication between the store and customers. The products Groceries To Go carries and the places it delivers to will depend on the demand of the customers, he said.

Groceries To Go can be accessed at http://www.gtg.com.