At Windset Farms, one of North America’s largest sustainable suppliers of naturally grown produce, Nunhems talked with David Coronado (Senior Cucumber Grower) and Shiho Uzawa (Marketing Manager) about the changing demand for greenhouse grown cucumbers and their new delivery program, Windset Direct.
“The development in North America is that cucumbers are fresh, healthy and quick-snacking. Ten years ago basically all you needed were mainly greenhouse-grown cucumbers. Now we grow mini cucumbers, baby cucumbers, and cocktail cucumbers”, David says. Looking towards the future he is convinced that “the cucumber market development is evolving into something new”.
Recently, Windset Farms also set up their new delivery program called Windset Direct. Shiho explains how they came up with the idea: “We created the program because we saw a need in the community, and we wanted to help. In the upheaval due to the COVID19 pandemic, there were many students who lost their summer jobs and internships. There were also many members in the community who were not able to leave their homes. We want to make their lives easier in these uncertain times.”
When and why did Windset Farms start with its new delivery program, Windset Direct?
Shiho: We created the program because we saw a need in the community, and we wanted to help. In the upheaval due to the COVID19 pandemic, there were many students who lost their summer jobs and internships. There were also many members in the community who were not able to leave their homes. We want to make their lives easier in these uncertain times. With the Windset Direct program, we created a solution to these problems.
How has it developed since the beginning?
Shiho: At its inception, Windset employed a group of students to lead Windset Direct. The program consisted of 1 high school student and 5 university students who developed Windset Direct from scratch to incorporate into our current business model. The program started in a few select areas. The response from the community was immediately positive. We ended up adding 2-3 delivery areas within a few weeks and expanding our delivery zone. While operating the Windset Direct program, the students also researched, tested and added various features on their website to help drive awareness and sales.
On Windset’s Direct website you are offering different packages that the people can purchase. How did you come up with it? Is there a bestseller?
Shiho: At Windset Direct we carry three vegetable packs: A Convenience Pack, A Retail Pack and a Bulk Pack. Each pack contains the full assortment of the Windset Farms offering including Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers and Lettuce. Our goal with the program is to make a pack for everyone at a price point within everyone’s reach. We understand times are tough. As a result, we constantly evaluate our offering to Windset Direct customers to ensure we deliver the value they expect. The Convenience Pack is geared to singles or couples. The Retail Pack is positioned for a small family while we market the Bulk Pack for a growing family. The retail pack is the best-seller.
How did you get (potential) buyers on this website? Did you do special promotions or advertising actions?
Shiho: The high quality and freshness of the produce in the Windset Direct program resonated strongly with consumers. Shortly after launching in May, we added a referral program with a 10% discount. Word of mouth helped the program take off especially when combined with social media. Working with a media company, we were also able to add online advertisements to the budget. Lastly, to reach as many customers as possible, we ran four newspaper advertisements in the Vancouver Sun.
Any surprises on the demographics of the users (age, location, etc.)?
Shiho: The users of Windset Direct are a diverse mix of community members. While families comprise most of our customer base, we service many couples as well. Seniors– those in the high-risk category for suffering from the effects of COVID19 – are also well-represented in our customer base. We are pleasantly surprised at the number of customers across the greater Vancouver area requesting Windset Direct. We continue to service more locations but there are still some we cannot reach [but are demanding].
Can you tell us something about the purchase frequency?
Shiho: We receive many repeat orders on a weekly basis. Many families order our Bulk Pack every other week but just as many are ordering the Bulk Pack every week. One surprise is the number of customers who buy multiples of the Convenience Pack each week. We learned that one head of Delicato Butter lettuce per week isn’t enough.
In how far did COVID 19 have a big impact on the frequency of purchase?
Shiho: One of the strongest forces behind the inception of Windset Direct was the challenges posed to our community by COVID 19. Consumers, especially those considered high-risk, were not leaving the house. However, they still want to eat fresh vegetables. Understanding our delivery team follows a strict hygiene protocol, we expected frequent purchases, especially from consumers 65 years of age and older.
In how far do you see a co-influence on your normal business?
Shiho: We aren’t seeing any direct influence by Windset Direct on our core business yet but we hope that once the Windset Direct program ends at the end of the summer, the customers will continue to look for our brand at local stores.
If you would need to evaluate the Windset Direct program right now. How would you conclude?
Shiho: The Windset Direct program is a success. We created a platform to service the community with delicious, high quality fresh vegetables while keeping everyone safe. We developed a strong foundation from which we plan to continue servicing our customers. We launched with a small student group this year, but we received lots of resumes from interested students looking to be a part of this. This is encouraging. We will be evaluating the program, but I am confident the best is yet to come.
Now, that Windset Direct became such a success, how do you want to develop this further?
Shiho: As we wrap-up Windset Direct for the summer, we are evaluating the program and exploring ways to make it better. We expect grocery delivery to become a part of everyday life for more and more consumers. There are more consumers used to a delivery service and who feel comfortable using them. Windset Farms also appreciates working with students. Students bring a lot of great ideas, passion and focus to projects – especially those involving technology. We are looking to expand on this in 2021. We also want to learn how to service more of the community and potentially build new packs. We think our learnings from this year will help us build a more robust Windset Direct to better service our community.
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