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A Comprehensive E-Grocery Guide: How to Run Online Business Successfully

Launching a food delivery and trading venture online involves substantial initial investment. A clear understanding of the legal framework and adherence to all regulatory requirements is essential. For sustained profitability and a competitive edge, it is crucial to consistently optimize processes and rigorously monitor product quality.

Our comprehensive guide delves into the industry’s prospects, business models, and essential insights necessary to establish a lucrative e-grocery platform.

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What Is Online Grocery Shopping

E-grocery (online grocery) encompasses online trading of food, beverages, household essentials, and more. The demand for these products is constant, with farm-fresh and artisanal goods, as well as supermarket and restaurant deliveries, being particularly sought after.

While this niche presents significant potential due to diverse business models and monetization avenues, meticulous attention must be paid to legal considerations, sanitary standards compliance, and specialized production conditions. Product storage necessitates specific conditions, and arranging delivery to other cities and countries via delivery services may not always be feasible.

Is Online Food Business Profitable

According to Statista, the global grocery market experienced significant growth in online sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic. E-commerce’s share of grocery sales surged from 4.9 percent in 2019 to reach 7.2 percent in 2021.

E-commerce as percentage of total grocery sales worldwide from 2019 to 2021
E-commerce as percentage of total grocery sales worldwide from 2019 to 2021

According to Kantar e-grocery forecasts, the growth rate of this sector will amount to 9.2% by 2025.

Worldwide Online Share of Grocery Sales
Worldwide Online Share of Grocery Sales

As per Mercatus’ study, it is projected that grocery ecommerce sales will exceed 20% of the total U.S. grocery market by 2026.

US e-grocery total sales forecast
US e-grocery total sales forecast

In recent years, an increasing number of individuals have recognized the advantages of online shopping, such as diverse food choices, simplified dietary management, and enhanced product accessibility.

According to McKinsey’s research, grocery ecommerce is identified as the foremost COVID-era trend expected to persist long-term, driven by various practical reasons. Among these, health and wellness concerns are prevalent, with some individuals opting to continue staying at home despite the ongoing transition from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the allure of diverse food options available for online purchase contributes to the sustained appeal of ecommerce grocery shopping.

Furthermore, global supply chain dynamics play a role, as obtaining essential items online may prove more convenient than purchasing from local supermarkets in certain instances.

Regardless of the underlying motivations, the current period presents a favorable opportunity for retailers to contemplate transitioning their operations to the online sphere. Moreover, given the ongoing shifts in the economy, prospective first-time entrepreneurs may also be considering the establishment of an ecommerce food brand.

Superapps is the next step on e-grocery. E-Grocery superapps refer to apps that enable users to order groceries online for pickup or delivery from nearby stores. These apps typically offer a variety of features, such as product search, grocery list management, and real-time availability updates, to make the shopping process more convenient and efficient. Some popular e-grocery superapps in the US include Instacart, Shipt, and DoorDash Grocery.

Instacart is an online grocery delivery company based in the United States
Instacart is an online grocery delivery company based in the United States

Drivers of Growth

Factors fueling the expansion of e-grocery sales as per McKinsey’s findings:

  1. Safety and convenience.
  2. Ability to compare products and prices.
  3. Expanded product variety.
  4. Tailored promotions.
  5. Home delivery convenience.
  6. Flexible delivery alternatives.

Additionally, Chicory’s survey indicates that recipes featured on websites or social media platforms stimulate purchases. Furthermore, 51% of respondents highlighted the convenience of directly ordering necessary products from the same website where they access recipes.

The recipe on the Walmart website
You can promptly add the required items to your cart directly from the recipe on the Walmart website

Documents Required to Start Selling Online

In order to sell products online through an e-grocery platform, various legal documents may be required depending on your specific country and location. These can include a business license, tax registration documents, and proof of insurance. Additionally, you may need permits for selling certain products, such as food or pharmaceuticals. It’s always best to consult with local authorities or a legal expert to determine the specific requirements for your business.

It is possible to sell food online without a license, but the regulations and requirements can vary depending on the location and type of food being sold. In some countries or regions, there may be no requirement for a food license to sell online, while in others, you may need to obtain a permit or certification from the health department or local government agency.

In addition to the aesthetics of your packaging, different countries enforce specific labeling regulations. These may encompass best-before dates, nutritional details, allergen advisories, and product origin. If you intend to distribute your product internationally, particularly to retailers, it’s essential to thoroughly review the labeling regulations of the destination country.

Two Main Business Model: Produced vs. Curated

There are numerous methods to initiate a venture in the food industry, from supplying raw ingredients to manufacturers to establishing a restaurant. However, if your goal is to sell food online, there are two primary business models to consider.

Producing food products for sale

This model involves creating food in a home-based business or a commercial facility and directly selling it to consumers (DTC). You have the option to handle the entire supply chain and be personally involved in production, or collaborate with a third-party manufacturer who will produce and package a recipe according to your specifications. In this framework, you might also expand your sales channels and contemplate wholesaling to other retail outlets.

Several regions have cottage food laws, permitting the production of specific food items in a domestic kitchen without the same requirements as commercial kitchens. In the US, for example, it is crucial to research each state’s cottage food laws, as they can vary by location.

Curating and reselling food

This model entails reselling by curating other brands’ products under your own label. Your unique selling proposition (USP) might revolve around offering the best of a particular product type (e.g., mustards from various regions) within a unified shopping experience. Alternatively, you may explore drop-shipping to introduce another brand’s products to a new market.

E-grocery Food Production Model

1. Selling food from home

Certain food items can legally be produced and sold from your domestic kitchen; however, it’s crucial to research the regulations pertaining to your chosen product. In the US, FDA registration is required for home-based businesses, and upgrades to your home setup, such as improved ventilation, may be necessary. Obtaining the necessary license to sell food from home in your region is essential.

2. Renting from shared commercial kitchens

Numerous facilities offer shared or co-op kitchen space for rent based on your production needs. The benefits include reduced costs, less paperwork, and exposure to shared knowledge from other small business owners.

3. Setting up your own commercial facility

This approach provides full autonomy but is the most expensive option and requires extensive due diligence to ensure compliance with codes and licensing. This may be a future goal rather than the best option for new entrepreneurs.

4. Working with an existing manufacturer

Ideal for hands-off entrepreneurs, this option allows you to focus on the business while leveraging the expertise of manufacturers in food safety and regulations. This approach grants you the time to invest in other aspects of the business while entrusting the execution to professionals.

Some Ideas How to Choose Products for E-Grocery

If you’re still searching for a product to sell, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Determine the logistics of product delivery to customers. Not all items are suitable for postal or delivery services, as some are perishable and require special shipping and packaging conditions. Your options include selecting products with a long shelf life for national or international shipping or focusing on selling fresh products within your local area, such as farm meat, artisanal cheese, or baked goods.
  2. Avoid replicating supermarket offerings, as competing with them can be challenging. Instead, consider offering unique items, such as artisanal sweets or snacks, or creating customized products like sugar-free or soy milk.
  3. Diversify your product range. For instance, if you’re selling farm meat, consider offering semi-finished products or sausages based on your own recipes.
  4. Consider reselling shelf-stable foreign products, such as carbonated drinks, confectionery, spices, and coffee.

How to Start Online Food Business

Step 1: Formulate your business concept and assess your target audience.

Are you involved in production or operate a brick-and-mortar store? Do you aspire to vend products under your own brand or initiate a delivery service? Perhaps, as a restaurant proprietor, you are seeking a fresh sales channel? Irrespective of the business model, the initial and critical step in launching any business involves identifying your target clientele. Understanding their needs, preferences, and how to engage them proves instrumental in selecting your product range and formulating your marketing strategy.

Step 2: Review the legal framework.

It is imperative to acquaint yourself with the legal framework and compile the necessary licenses for your business concept to evade potential penalties.

Step 3: Devise a delivery strategy.

Will you oversee an in-house delivery service or forge alliances with courier companies? Compliance with packaging and transportation standards also merits consideration.

Step 4: Establish a website and/or mobile application. Integrate diverse payment and delivery methods.

The success of your venture significantly hinges on a user-friendly and operational website and mobile application for order placement. The interface should be intuitive and user-friendly.

Step 5: Arrange order reception and processing.

Ensuring prompt and efficient order processing is paramount. With CS-Cart, you can exercise authority over your warehouses to effectively manage your stock and orders. Alternatively, empower vendors with an array of tools to oversee their personalized micro-stores.

Step 6: Devise a loyalty program.

Loyalty initiatives prove to be potent tools in fostering recurrent purchases and nurturing enduring customer relationships. Basic principles include transparent terms, value for the buyer, and simplified registration. Gain insights into various loyalty program models and how to maximize their efficacy by delving into our informative article.

How Much Does It Cost to Start E-Grocery Business

Small-scale producers initiating home-based businesses face fewer overhead expenses and can later expand into commercial spaces as their operations expand. By bypassing costly leases and staffing outlays, it is feasible to commence selling food online with merely a few hundred dollars budgeted for ingredients, website development, marketing, and packaging.

If your living space doubles as your business area, it may be possible to claim a portion of your housing and utility costs during tax season.

If operating from home is implausible, consider the monthly expenses of a commercial facility when estimating your startup finances. While production facilities can be costly, several co-ops and incubators provide shared kitchens to entrepreneurs at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated space.

The expenses related to the project will primarily be contingent on the business model: whether it be a marketplace, online store, delivery service, or application. Factors such as the size and structure of the catalog, integration with third-party services, and bespoke enhancements will be impacted accordingly. It is essential to ascertain if a pre-existing theme template suffices or if a custom design is imperative. Additionally, discerning the need for automating business processes is crucial. Our managers can assist in navigating these considerations.

Outlined below is a breakdown of the expenses encompassed in developing an e-grocery project:

The costs also encompass:

  • Integration of payment systems and delivery services.
  • Procurement of goods and establishment of a warehouse (if necessary).
  • Packaging.
  • Acquisition of declarations and trade-related documents.
  • Website and domain maintenance fees.
  • Promotional and advertising expenses.
  • Logistics and product delivery.
  • Returns and delays.

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Ksenia Cheburova , Cart-Power Editor
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