For just over a year, a Langford-based online grocery company has been working to help make local products more accessible, and to make the grocery industry more accessible for local producers.
It’s a concept co-owners Mitch Hawes and Brenden Fatt had been considering for years as both are second-generation grocery entrepreneurs, and decided to make a reality with BCause in August 2021.
“We both grew up in this sort of warehousing, grocery industry lifestyle, and we just recognized through that experience that the grocery industry is inherently broken,” said Hawes. “There are a lot of things that work, but one of the things that doesn’t is how we support our local producers across B.C.”
Hawes said despite plenty of high-quality and unique products being produced in the province, the traditional grocery store network is very difficult to get into for small and medium-sized producers. The industry generally sets very high requirements in order for products to reach store shelves, ranging from mandatory minimum advertising spending to being able to provide large quantities of products in a short amount of time.
All this is often more than a small company would be able to accommodate, and so stores are featuring fewer and fewer local products on their shelves, despite the need for supporting local, especially when it comes to food, being very apparent in modern society.
“So we set off on a mission … to work directly with local producers to create a platform that is really vendor-focused to make it easier for everyday customers to shop local, while still being able to get their everyday essentials.”
The model they came up with is effectively an online grocery consignment shop or farmers market where customers are able to purchase products with prices and deals controlled entirely by the company that makes it, with BCause serving as a platform to make those purchases and arrange home delivery seven days a week.
Based on their experience so far, Hawes said it seems to be a winning combination.
“We certainly noticed that during the main push of the pandemic if you will, sales were really booming, and there has been a bit of a shift as we all navigate getting back to the ‘normal world,’ whatever that looks like these days,” he said. “More and more people were kind of going back to shopping in-person, but recently we are seeing another wave of new people getting into online shopping for the convenience now that the novelty of shopping in-store again has worn off.”
Being a small business with just four people on the payroll has allowed the company to be more responsive and agile, growing and shrinking their operation to keep it matched to customer demand.
Right now, BCause is currently delivering to the Greater Victoria region and the Ladysmith to Qualicum Beach area and will list any product made in B.C., but Hawes said an Island-wide expansion is the ultimate goal. But he said they have no plans on rushing their expansion, and plan to grow only at the pace customer demand requires.