SINGAPORE - University student Brandon Lee does not need to leave his home or desk to get fruit for his parents and three siblings.
He places his family's fruit order online at Lazyfruits, a nine-month-old e-commerce fruit shop which delivers the produce right to his doorstep. His family orders about $70 worth of fruit every week.
The 24-year-old, who usually goes grocery shopping with his mother, says they now skip the fruit section of the supermarket entirely. Lazyfruits is one of a growing number of speciality grocers that now offer delivery services.
Others that opened this year include day-old Zairyo, an online Japanese grocer; and The Sampan Catch, a fish farm and supplier which launched in February.
Over the last two years, more businesses, some of which also offer subscription services of monthly, weekly or bi-weekly produce, have opened. They target consumers by taking the hassle out of shopping at supermarkets, wet markets and wine shops, and curating selections for customers.
The model of subscription services, where customers have standing orders with businesses for a mystery box of wares that can range from vegetables to beer to wine, has also been gathering steam here.
The trend mirrors similar ones overseas, where consumers band together to form cooperatives to purchase produce and place orders as a community.
One of the newest subscription services to hit the market is SimplyFresh, which specialises in organic-certified seasonal produce from family-owned farms in Europe.
Fruit and vegetable stall Tangy Tangerines, which operates at PasarBella at The Grandstand, as well as Lazyfruits, will officially kick-start their subscription services in the coming months.
These businesses also ride on their reputation of offering quality products to customers.
Business owners attribute the rise in popularity of subscription services and home delivery here to customers' increasingly hectic lives. Ms Diana Goh, 32, a brand consultant and owner of hair and beauty salon Blow+Bar, started purchasing Japanese produce from Zairyo a few months ago, before its site went live yesterday.
She says: "It is convenient and I like that it provides home delivery. The shop sells everything you need to whip up a Japanese meal, including rice and mirin."
Ms Goh, who usually orders uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe) and sashimi- grade salmon fillet, adds that the assurance of quality because of Zairyo's links to the restaurant supply industry is a bonus.
When it comes to subscription services, home consumers say that while they may love the idea of surprises and the notion of receiving mystery boxes of ingredients at their doorsteps, there will inevitably be ingredients that they will not know how to cook or just do not like the taste of.
Housewife S.K. Yeo, 53, says: "It sounds novel and would save a lot of hassle, especially with heavier items, but I think I would still prefer to touch, feel and see the items before I purchase them. Maybe I'm old-fashioned that way."
Price: Minimum order of $40, free delivery for orders of $80 and above
Info: Go to tangytangerines.sg
For inquiries, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Tangy Tangerines, co-owned by Mr Alvin Poh, will launch a fruit and vegetable subscription service next month.
Tangy Tangerines, a fruit and vegetable stall at PasarBella, a farmers' market at The Grandstand in Bukit Timah, will be relaunching its website next month to include a subscription service.
Presently, the site allows customers to pick and choose only from a list of grocery items.
Its owners, Mr Alvin Poh and Mr Cedrick Chew, both 28, say they have seen demand for a fruit and vegetable subscription service increase over the last three months.
The company, which opened in February last year, has 20 to 30 regular customers who opt for mystery boxes of fruit and vegetables to be delivered to their homes weekly or twice a week.
Customers keen on subscribing to the service can start with a one-week trial and thereafter sign up for a monthly or quarterly subscription of weekly deliveries.
Mr Poh says: "Some people like surprises, but when they receive the box, there are things they don't like, such as passionfruit, for example."
For now, Tangy Tangerines gives customers a heads up on items in the box and allows them to swop up to three items they do not like.
Boxes include, depending on the season, between 10 and 20 types of fruit and vegetables such as apples, grapes and vegetables, including herbs.
The company plans to work with chefs to offer recipes too.
The shop has a range of organic and non-organic produce from countries such as the United States, Australia, Israel and Thailand.
It generally does not sell fruit and vegetables from China.
Price: From $120 for a box of fruit and vegetables, with free delivery. Shipments come in once a week and are delivered to consumers on Fridays. Orders should be placed by Thursday, 5pm, for delivery the following Friday. Customised boxes are also available.
Info: Go to simplyfresh.sg.
For inquiries, e-mail email@example.com
Fruits and vegetables from SimplyFresh, a new fruit and vegetable subscription service which specialises in organic-certified produce from family-owned farms in Europe.
SimplyFresh, a new fruit and vegetable subscription service which launched yesterday, specialises in organic-certified produce from family-owned farms in Europe.
It is co-founded by Mr Michael Giesswein, 34, who moved to Singapore from Austria two years ago. He and his two business partners also run the month-old currywurst stall Mr Berlin at One Shenton Way and a distributorship that specialises in Austrian and German white asparagus and wild European mushrooms.
The self-professed "fruit and vegetable junkie" has been making green smoothies for breakfast for the last seven to eight years and found the variety of organic produce here to be fairly limited.
"The produce lack the strong and fresh flavours I was used too," he says.
He had grown up with access to produce from family-owned farms because his maternal grandfather, 86, used to run a company that supplied tractors to such farms.
Using these connections, he decided to import organic produce to Singapore directly from farms.
All the farms have been hand-picked and, over the years, he has visited each of them personally. They are located in countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Greece.
Each box of produce weighs 5 to 7kg and contains seasonal items that range from black salsify (a root vegetable) to tomatoes.
There are nine box options to choose from. These range from Grandma's Garden Box, a selection of rustic favourites that can include pumpkins and parsnips, to Smoothie Box, which includes fruit and vegetables for juice blends.
Those keen on leaving the contents of their box to SimplyFresh can opt for the Surprise Box, which includes seasonal produce that may not be included in other boxes.
All boxes, except the Surprise Box, which costs $120, are priced at $138 each.
Price: Free delivery is available for orders above $68
Info: Go to www.lazyfruits.com.
For inquiries, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lazyfruits, run by Mr Ben Phua, is looking to roll out a subscription service.
Lazyfruits is for, well, "lazy people", says its founder, Mr Ben Phua, 22.
He adds: "People are getting lazier these days, too busy with work or their social lives. So I decided to create a service for them to deliver fruit directly to their doorstep."
He and a childhood friend, Mr Kang Poh Heng, 22, who is attending university in San Jose in the United States, launched Lazyfruits in February and business has been growing steadily, says Mr Phua.
Lazyfruits is a sister company of his family-run fruit supply and retail businesses Chop Chin Yong and Lin Chian Lye. These have outlets in Aljunied, Sims Avenue and Potong Pasir. The family business is more than 30 years old.
Mr Phua joined the family business last year after he completed national service. He says that given the market's shift towards online shopping, he saw an opportunity to branch out into e-commerce.
He admits that business was slow at first but these days, there are at least 10 customers who order each day.
The fruit at the online stall are seasonal and sourced from countries including China, Thailand and Japan. Offerings include everything from yellow dragon fruit to Japanese Kyoho grapes.
About 70 per cent of his customers are expatriates who spend about $100 on fruit once or twice a week.
Lazyfruits does not have a subscription service, but plans to roll out one in the coming months. The model is still being tweaked.
For now, customers who have standing weekly orders for assorted fruit place their requests via e-mail.
Mr Phua is also looking for a retail space for Lazyfruits.
Price: Free delivery for orders of more than $100. All deliveries are free this month.
Info: Go to zairyo.sg.
For inquiries, e-mail email@example.com
A tray of uni (sea urchin) from Zairyo, a new online grocer specialising in Japanese produce and cooking products.
This new online grocer specialising in Japanese produce and cooking products went live yesterday.
It offers items that range from Ito wagyu ribeye and a tray of uni (sea urchin, both right) to inaniwa udon and various Japanese sauces.
Zairyo co-founder Amanda Tan, 25, a freelance public relations consultant, whose father Alvin Tan, 50, runs a Japanese food supply business, saw a gap in the market to supply directly to consumers instead of just restaurants.
Moreover, the avid homecook says she knows exactly where the produce is from.
As her father's company, Good Choice Trading, has been in the business for more than 10 years and has strong connections in Japan, including a partner at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, she is assured of the source and quality of her products.
She wants to pass on this quality assurance to others.
She adds: "I also want people to know that Japanese food isn't just about sashimi. There's a lot more to it and simple Japanese food can be enjoyed at home too. Japanese ingredients can also be incorporated into other dishes."
Examples include uni in pasta, as well as topping a prawn roll with ikura (salmon roe) for a more economical version of a lobster roll.
While Ms Tan handles the operations, her boyfriend and business partner Thomas Po, 30, a finance executive, handles the numbers.
Items are air-flown from Japan twice a week and arrive on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Orders are then despatched to customers on the same day. Place orders at least two days in advance.
The Sampan Catch
Price: Free delivery to one location for orders above $180, minimum order of $60
Info: Go to sampancatch.com
Barramundi, sea bass, from The sampan Catch
For fresh fish harvested just hours before it arrives at your doorstep, go to online shop The Sampan Catch.
The company is run by Mr Raymond Sng and his wife Siew Ping, both 50, owners of Tiberias Harvest, a fish farm which, until February this year, distributed its haul only to restaurants and wholesalers.
The farm is located near Pulau Ubin, about 4km from the Changi coastline, and is half the size of a football field.
The couple, who have two children in university, left their corporate jobs to set up the farm.
Mr Sng, a former manager in a technology multinational company, left his job in 2011 and Mrs Sng, a former civil servant, left in 2012.
Tiberias Harvest currently supplies to about 15 restaurants islandwide and has had about 60 homecook customers so far.
Fish species include barramundi (seabass), pearl grouper, crimson snapper (below) and mangrove jack. The fish are not fed antibiotics or chemicals.
On why they decided to start offering their fish to households, Mr Sng says: "When restaurant chefs we supply to gave consistently good feedback about our fish, we felt encouraged and thought that perhaps the more discerning home consumers might appreciate it too."
The fish are delivered to homes on the same day they are harvested at the farm - typically within four hours.
They are scaled, gutted and packed individually before delivery.
This article was first published on November 9, 2014.
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