Pandemic spurs specialty foods wholesaler to open up first-time home delivery service
With the COVID-19 pandemic upending everything up to and including the economy, businesses are being forced to strategically pivot as a means of survival.
To that end, Baldor Specialty Foods, one of the largest wholesale importers and distributors of fresh produce and specialty foods in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, recently announced it was launching a home delivery service for the first time in its 28-year history.
The company’s enormous culinary inventory will be directly available for at-home delivery to the 18.5 million consumers that live within a 50-mile radius of its Bronx headquarters.
All of Long Island, up to and including the East End, is eligible to use this service. Baldor CEO T.J. Murphy and Ben Walker, vice president of sales and marketing, came up with the idea in light of many regular wholesale restaurant customers being on shaky economic ground as numbers for on-site dining cratered.
“We had a lot of personal friends reaching out to us and asking if they could get personal orders of food,” Walker said. “The idea hit owner T.J. Murphy and I that we could give this a shot. Retail was being slammed and we had a breaking point. There was this entire food service supply chain just sitting idle. We were fortunate to have a pretty strong web presence with our current customer base. We have [web] developers and we have a team that helps support our e-commerce efforts, so we were able to quickly put in some home delivery work flows and within 48 to 72 hours, we were able to launch a whole new offering.”
With a minimum order of $250 (tax and delivery included), Baldor is opening access for consumers to order 24 hours a day. Customers can order up to 10 p.m. for next-day delivery, which falls within an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. delivery window. The wholesaler/distributor has 120 sales/customer service people monitoring phones to address any questions or issues with this service that is available until the end of this health crisis. Response so far has been positive.
Walker said it has added up to 15 to 20 percent additional revenue for the company. With the current footprint going as far north as Portland, ME, as far south as Richmond, VA and as far west as Bethlehem, PA, roll-outs of this service have already ensued in Boston and Philadelphia, with Washington, D.C. up next. The company employs 2,200 people and has 425 trucks rolling out daily from its three distribution centers in The Bronx, Boston and Washington, D.C.
And while Baldor has exclusively been a wholesaler for its existence, the company is going back to its roots, given the business was originally spun off of from Balducci’s, a specialty gourmet food retailer that got its start in the West Village as a fruit stand back in 1946. Early popular home delivery search items are chicken, meat, pasta, canned tomatoes, eggs, milk, baking ingredients and other items that can keep for a long time in a pantry. Baldor is constantly tweaking its selection and there is even talk of there being some possible future seafood options. One of the company’s largest hurdles has been tweaking the quantities it sells.
“Nobody needs 25 pounds of rice,” Walker said with a laugh. “We’re quickly bringing in smaller pack sizes with more retail offerings to satisfy the demand that is out there, and that’s a challenge. But we’re meeting every day virtually and loading 30 to 50 new items a day just to improve this program. [In the end], this is to help us keep the lights on and is keeping people working, trucks going out and farmers farming. It’s as normal as you can keep it during these times, so when we do get back to normal, it won’t be such a shock to get back to normal business. We’re excited. Hopefully, it continues to grow and we’ll just take it a day a time.”
As for Murphy, the CEO’s sentiment is confident in his company’s preparedness and ability to be of service to a customer base trying to weather the new normal.
“At its heart, Baldor has always been about family and community,” Murphy said. “With a state-of-the-art food distribution chain already in place, it only makes sense to put it to good use, delivering our high-quality produce and specialty items to the consumers staying at home, doing their part to thwart the pandemic by practicing social distancing and isolation. And while we have never considered doing this before, everything must be put on the table and considered in a time of crisis. Our main priority is to provide food to the communities we serve—and we will do whatever it takes to make that happen.”
Visit www.baldorfood.com to find out more about the company’s temporary food delivery service.