In 1997, SPUD (Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery) reinvented grocery shopping for Vancouverites by making local, sustainable produce available online and delivering it directly to customer’s front doors. Now, 18 years later, the SPUD team is entering a new phase of invention—offline. Launching a brick-and-mortar location called Be Fresh Local Market in Kitsilano, SPUD is continuing to explore just how environmentally-friendly modern grocery shopping can become.
“Food is a big part of our lives and we should really make sure that it’s good for us and it’s good for the world,” says Peter van Stolk, CEO of the Vancouver-based company. “I know we take it a bit for granted, but I want Be Fresh to be a place where you can focus on local artisan food, and where most of the products are local. But we also want to be relevant so that if you need something quick you can come and grab it.” Stolk agrees that, though online shopping can be very efficient, many people still appreciate the community feel of going to a physical location.
The new Be Fresh is small, but it packs more heat than an average 100,000 sq.-ft. grocery store. It includes a café (Be Fresh cafés can also be found in some YMCAs in Vancouver and Calgary), bakery, juice bar, cooler of pre-prepared meals-to-go, and, of course, several meticulously curated shelves of organic produce, dry goods, and local vendors (Nice Vice ice cream, To Die For banana bread loaves by Erin Ireland, sausages from Two Rivers Meats, and more). Customers can use an in-store computer to fill out more detailed SPUD orders online, and if you live within two kilometres of a Be Fresh, you can have your groceries delivered to your home by bike, for free—a zero-impact shopping experience.
Reducing waste is a key component of SPUD’s mission as a sustainable grocer, and it remains an important aspect of Be Fresh’s operations as well. For example, instead of throwing out produce that is just past ripeness—as big-box grocery stores do—Be Fresh makes use of it at the juice bar; crushed almonds that are left over from making almond milk for the café are used for tasty almond balls in the bakery. The list of waste-reduction techniques in place at each store is lengthy. You can have your organic cake and eat it, too.
Photos by Heidi Beucking.