Delivery service connects immigrants with Asian grocery store through their phones

Grocery delivery services in Toronto are in demand during the coronavirus pandemic

DuDu drivers load a car with groceries ready for delivery.  PEI-YING CHANG/TORONTO OBERVER

Connie Wang, 22, is an international student from Taiwan who usually orders her groceries once a week. She places the items to the shopping cart and chooses the arrival time through WeChat.

When comes back from school, bam! The groceries are waiting for her at the side of her house. The only thing she has to do is check the order with a delivery driver.

“Once you start using it, it’s hard to live without it,” Wang said.

She’s using DuDu, a grocery delivery service that launched in the Greater Toronto area in 2018. The company is experiencing a spike in orders because of the coronavirus pandemic, as people are opting to order groceries to their doors rather than brave stores on their own.

Consumers order their groceries through Dudu in WeChat. The company provides more than 5,000 items to deliver including meat, dairy, seafood and vegetables. In order to serve Chinese immigrants in Canada, they co-operate with a Chinese grocery retail store, Bestco, on Brimley Road in Scarborough. They mainly serve in Scarborough, North York, downtown Toronto, Markham, and Richmond Hill.

Watch Dudu’s founders explain the concept:

Wang said that shopping from DuDu on WeChat helps people like her — an international student who do not have a car but wants specific foods from Chinese supermarkets. It saves lots of time on the commute and also eliminates the hassle of hauling items home.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian grocers have been developing phone-based delivery services like this because of a market shift towards convenience grocery shopping that emerged in 2018.

“The number of Chinese supermarkets are not as many as Western supermarkets such as Walmart and Food Basics, so the specific demand of groceries delivery for Chinese immigrants in Canada already exist but not many people are doing it,” Leo Lin, DuDu’s co-owner, said in an interview with the Toronto Observer.

DuDu’s purchasers double-check each customer’s list to ensure all the products they desire are in the cart before they are delivered. PEI-YING CHANG/TORONTO OBSERVER

Leo previously was in an IT department in China and immigrated two years ago. He worked with his teammates who are in China to develop the software and build up DuDu’s official account in WeChat.

Building the platform on WeChat wasn’t hard, he said. The difficult part was finding a Chinese supermarket in Canada willing to co-operate with them.

“It’s actually really normal in China,” he said. “I just brought the techniques to Canada so more people can enjoy the services and people … could be helped.”

One of their users is a blind mother. She visited the market every week with her son, but they encountered many difficulties while choosing groceries, waiting in line and commuting on public transportation. DuDu’s service minimizes hardship for people like them, Leo said.

How DuDu is helping during the pandemic

With fears about the spread of COVID-19, many people are trying to limit their exposure to public areas. Grocers’ e-commerce programs are a natural fit.

But many North American grocers’ delivery apps only deliver non-perishable food and household supplies.

“I don’t know here is the grocery delivery can ship perishable food in North America,” Felix Deng said while shopping at Bestco. “I went to Costco and Walmart, but they only deliver non-perishable items.

“In this special situation, I’m looking for the one that can deliver what I want.”

Read more about what grocery services are doing during the pandemic:

DuDu is certainly feeling that demand.

“As the spread of coronavirus, our service is trying to keep pace with a dramatic increase in online orders,” said Leon Lin, another co-founder of the company. “We are trying to manage the effective routes for drivers delivering items in the fastest way.”

Demand for home delivery surges

Leon mentioned that because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, members of the Chinese community in Canada already stockpiled alcohol, rice, and some households’ items. As orders surge, finding the correct items from the market in a certain time has been a challenge.

“One to two people are responsible for a specific area in order to effectively find the items,” Leo said. “Even after the virus outbreak, we still doing the same method to maintain the effectiveness of the service.”

A DuDu purchaser orders fresh meat for a customer’s order.

DuDu is taking special precautions to keep its workers and its customers safe.

“Drivers are wearing masks and gloves to not only protect themselves but also protect customers,” Leon said. “This is the first step to combat the virus, and we are moving toward non-touch delivery.”

Watch the process of ordering groceries on DuDu’s WeChat account:

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Posted: Apr 8 2020 9:01 am
Filed under: Arts & Life Business COVID-19 Food News