Twenty-four Calgary food and beverage vendors have banded together to offer a new citywide food delivery service called Best of Calgary Foods. For a flat fee of $10, it will deliver anywhere in the city.
"It looks like an aggregated website for 24 of our companies, and these are all brands that have been around for a very long time," Janeen Norman, owner of Alpine Sausage, told The Homestretch. "You can go online, you can pick from any of the stores, you can pick by category."
Vendors include everything from food producers like Chinook Honey and Lambtastic Farms, vendors of speciality items like Peasant Cheese Shop and Tea Trader, bakeries like Pie Cloud and Lakeview Bakery, and beverage providers like Richmond Hill Wines and Village Brewery.
"There's lots of different food categories. For example, alcohol, bakery, we've got meats and seafood, tea and coffee. We've got candies, we've got honey, we've got waffle mixes," Norman said. "Just a whole beautiful mix."
The owner of Alpine Sausage said that many of the vendors had talked about creating a delivery service even before the pandemic shut things down.
"It's interesting, this is actually three years in the making," Norman said. "There's a group of us who were at the [farmer's] market on Macleod before it closed ... and then COVID hit and, you know, that seed was planted in the back of our minds. And we're like, now it's time. We've got to do it now."
Services like Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats offer local deliveries, but at a cost that some vendors say is enough to squeeze the profit margins of a small businesses.
"We've tried everything to keep our businesses afloat, we've tried third-party delivery companies, distributors, wholesalers. Some of us were already doing e-commerce and then acting as her own courier," Norman said.
"For example, I know I was doing 16 deliveries a day myself, which was just very, very difficult because, at the same time, it's taking you away from your place of business where you're so critically needed at that point."
Maureen DePatie, owner of Pie Cloud, said the business of food can look charming from the outside, but the reality is mentally, physically and financially taxing.
"It's a truly challenging industry," she said. "Add to the existing challenges of a food businesses an economic downturn that has been going on for more than five years now, and then mix in a pandemic, and it's a train wreck."
DePatie said this group is determined to keep providing their products to the foodies of Calgary.
"We've banded together because we all get it. We know how great each other's products are and how hard everyone is working," she said. "We all have a common goal of producing amazing, local food for consumers.… What we make and how we produce it may be diverse, but this group has that strong common bond of what we're all working toward."
The challenge of going online, for many small companies, is being seen.
"As a single company, you're one tree in a very vast forest of the Internet," Norman said. "It's very hard to find you. So we decided to strategically just make ourselves the forest. So now we're very visible."
Norman said the new service could be welcome news for customers who are accustomed to paying numerous delivery fees.
"As foodies, a lot of our customers were shared customers, so they might be a customer of Alpine Sausages, it might be a customer of Cherry Pits and might be a customer of Glamorgan Bakeries, and customers were paying $10 delivery for each company," Norman said.
"So when you have an online collective, you're only paying $10 and that's citywide. So if you live in Skyview, you're not being charged an extra, you know, surplus fee for the extra distance. It's the same price all over the city."
For more information and a full list of vendors, go to Best of Calgary Foods.
With files from The Homestretch.