Think about the way you shop for groceries or for fresh fruits and vegetables. For most of us, going to the supermarket or fresh markets to select weekly groceries (particularly during the pandemic, where it’s the most fun we have all week), is the norm. However, what about when you want to look for more sustainable, organic and affordable options? That’s where Happy Grocers come into play.
“I started Happy Grocers with my co-founder Pearl Pattamaphon during the pandemic, right around the first wave in Thailand,” says Moh. “It started really organic from me just posting a Facebook status and asking my friends if they’d like to find organic products. It just went from there.”
This is another case of flipping the pandemic into a business opportunity, and sometimes opportunities can begin within your own community and network.
“We started Happy Grocers because we wanted to bridge the gap between sustainable farmers across Thailand with urban shoppers in Bangkok. Oftentimes, people simply don’t know how to access organic produce, so they have to resort to supermarkets,” says Moh.
Happy Grocers grew organically with the mission to support smaller farmers, and to advocate for sustainable agriculture. Oftentimes, people would prefer to support the small players and buy directly, but its simply about lack of awareness and accessibility.
Happy Grocers sells online through their website, which actually just got a whole new upgrade last week and also through its grocery truck, which moved across different areas in Bangkok, from Sathorn to Sukhumvit, pre pandemic.
With its grocery truck, you can also check out its “parking schedule” online.
The founders are very involved throughout every stage of the business, and the team currently consists of six people. Most of the process is not automated, so it’s literally hands on deck like any other startup.
We actually came across Happy Grocers on Clubhouse during a “Deal or No Deal” room where the founders pitched to Thai Angel Investors. We also talked about fundraising.
“We are currently looking for funding to grow our operations and expand reach, but we also received funding from government sponsored NIA competitions,” says Moh.
The business’s costs and monetization are straightforward.
“We order directly with our suppliers in bulk, and sell whatever we have that week,” says Moh. “Because the produce is organic, things need to sell out within a few days otherwise it goes bad.”
To offset this, Happy Grocers also has special sales for things that must go.
To become a customer, simply follow Happy Grocers on Instagram, or shop directly on the website and pay online. The team does daily deliveries, you can get ‘next day’ delivery on www.happygrocers.co from 5pm-8pm and ‘next hour’ deliveries via Grab Mart.
The business started because the founders wanted to include those who were left out of the supply chain. Therefore, Happy Grocers is essentially creating a new space but not reinventing a category.
“Since the third wave I notice that Thais are more interested in sustainability and organic produce. A lot of the inquiries I see now on the website are from Thais,” says Moh. “We started with an expat customer base.”
“Honestly, education and awareness are the two most important bridges to the gap,” says Moh.
The problem that Happy Grocers is working to solve is to close the gap between small organic farmers in Thailand and urban shoppers in Bangkok. “It’s all the local goodness consolidated into one place. All you need to do is browse, select and pay,” says Moh.
The Supply Chain & Products
Happy Grocers currently has about 60-80 farmers on its platform, and most of them have a relationship with the Happy Grocers team.
“We have tried our best to meet with all our suppliers, and they have either been connected with us via word of mouth, or we source them out specifically for certain supplies,” says Moh.
“We place emphasis on both organic and natural farming, and because it’s more important to make sure that the practice is eco-friendly,” says Moh, “so we also need to educate the customer.”
Happy Grocers also promotes “Ugly Produces”, vegetables or fruits that are aesthetically funny or unusual, but provide the same benefits and taste as the “regular kind”.
Education and accessibility are indeed crucial to raising consumer awareness. For example, Thailand actually houses several cocoa farms up north, which can then be made into chocolate. On Happy Grocers, they sell Pridi Chocolate Brand, locally produced and sourced from farms in Lampang, Chantaburi and Chiangrai.
The founders of Pridi questioned whether Thailand can have its own cacao and they themselves couldn’t find hotel and restaurant grade local cacao, so that’s how the brand started. If you search for the product on Happy Grocers, the website will also list out how each chocolate bar was harvested, selected, tempered and more.
“With Happy Grocers, you get transparency. We make sure to understand what we are selling and regularly talk to our suppliers about how each produce is harvested and maintained, up to the very last process of setting the right price,” says Moh.
“Another important element to Happy Grocers is fair trade. This is one of the key reasons we founded the business, and we have very transparent conversations with our suppliers about price, which should reflect not only the value of their organic produce but their dedication.”
“In the future, we just want to keep scaling up our business and expand the team, as well as scale up operations to help us with things like delivery, storage and more,” says Moh.
“There are a lot of things we want to focus on, which centers a lot on upping marketing efforts to reach a wider range of people as we grow. The next goal for us is to also expand operations in order to accommodate more orders and sales”
The company’s ideology is to listen to customers’ feedback, so that will continue to be a focus as Happy Grocers continue to grow.
A lot of what the co-founders change and implement is actually from direct feedback, which is a refreshing way of doing business.
“Happy Grocers isn’t just a platform that sells fruits and vegetables, but we are also trying to create a community that provides knowledge and educates the consumers, as well as help create a sustainable network for the farmers themselves. It’s tackling these things one step at a time.”