Services like AmazonFresh and Peapod offer grocery delivery with a few clicks, but mainstream delivery services — or even local supermarkets — don’t always offer farm-to-table fresh produce. Additionally, local farms and bakeries don’t often have many sales channels; some rely solely on farmers markets and farm stands.
Doorstep Dairy is seeking to change that with a regional delivery service focused on local products. The company delivers items such as milk, produce and baked goods that consumers might be hard-pressed to find through other retailers.
“You’re not going to find them in the supermarket,” Doorstep Dairy Owner Daryl Mast told PYMNTS in an interview.
To make the deliveries possible, Mast’s team journeys to local farms and bakeries to pick up the products before bringing them to consumers within three counties in Pennsylvania.
His idea is, in a sense, an expanded take on an old idea. The milkman was a regular fixture in America for many years. With services such as Doorstep Dairy, he’s finally making a comeback.
When customers sign up for Doorstep Dairy, they’re assigned a delivery day based on their location. (The company runs lean and tries not to do a lot of backtracking on their deliveries). Once they’re signed up, customers make their selections and tell Doorstep Dairy how often they would like their products delivered. Some customers have standing orders: They might order milk, bread, eggs, bacon and a pound of coffee each week, for example.
“It’s kind of a set-it-and-forget-it feature that we offer,” Mast said. To make this happen, Mast has software that allows his customers to enroll in auto pay. However, to better serve all customers, he offers alternative payment options, such as checks.
Mast knows consumers have other options for grocery delivery from larger vendors, but he seeks to differentiate his service by offering consumers a close connection to the farmers that produce their food. He visits his suppliers on a regular basis and knows the stories behind his offerings.
“I can tell a customer who grew that head of cabbage,” Mast said. “It all goes back to the story or being the face of the farmer. If the consumer is truly dedicated to supporting local [farmers], we’re the business for [them].”
In addition, Mast hopes to compete against the larger players by going the extra mile with customer service. He pays his drivers an accuracy bonus, but there’s an interesting twist to this incentive: Drivers can still keep their bonus if they make a mistake and fix it. The reason? If a driver forgets to deliver a dozen eggs to a customer on Friday and then makes a special trip to deliver that item on Saturday, customers will be left with a positive impression of the company.
“The customer is going to remember that,” Mast said. “They’re going to tell somebody about it. And I don’t know if you’re going to get that from a larger company.”
Beyond consumers, Doorstep Dairy also delivers to commercial accounts such as coffee shops and delis. This model has led to a change in vendor pricing. When Mast began Doorstep Dairy, many of his vendors treated his company as another retail outlet. As a result, his vendors originally offered him wholesale pricing. But that relationship has now deepened. These days, many of his vendors view the company as a distributor, so he now gets even more competitive pricing than he did before.
The Road Ahead
Doorstep Dairy hasn’t grown too far beyond three rural Pennsylvania counties, and Mast doesn’t have immediate plans for a wider expansion. Even though the company is located about an hour and half from Philadelphia, for example, the company doesn’t yet deliver into the city or its suburbs. Mast doesn’t plan on serving those areas until the time is right. The company doesn’t have many employees — it only has two full-time delivery workers — so Mast doesn’t want to stretch his coverage too thin.
As a small company, Doorstep Dairy wants measured growth: It isn’t seeking to rush into new markets. While Mast said that turning customers away doesn’t always feel right, it’s a decision he has to make. The alternative, he said, is to finance a fleet of trucks and expand faster. But then he would be taking a gamble of sorts: The company may or may not turn a profit. For now, he wants to work his way into new areas — one ZIP code at a time.
“We’ll just grow into another ZIP code and work in that area for a while and then maybe bump into [the] next,” Mast said. “We’ve got a number [of] ZIP codes to go before we get into Philadelphia, but there’s a lot [of] people between here and there.”