An online grocery with a completely different twist has moved on the scene

Photo (c) Harpazo Hope - Getty Images

'Shelf stable' products are a major focus

As the latest Consumer Price Index report showed, grocery prices are still rising – up 11.3% vs. this time last year -- with no sign of stopping.

To make consumers feel like they’re not getting sold down the river, private label brands have offered lower prices and dollar stores have provided more food choices. Now, there's another new way to stretch the food budget.

There is already an effort afloat by major grocers to expand their online operations, but one new direct-to-consumer online grocery store has emerged with a unique angle, offering discounts of up to 70% simply by selling pantry staples that would otherwise be tossed in a landfill. 

Enter Martie. Martie’s online-only approach makes it unique compared to discount-driven stores like Ollie’s and Big Lots which haven't yet shifted their emphasis from physical locations to online. It’s also a position that the other big grocery chains are not likely to take, contends the company’s co-founder Louise Fritjofsson. 

The Walmarts and Publix of the world certainly have the muscle to easily rip off Martie’s idea and do it themselves. But, Fritjofsson maintains that the chains can’t compete with her company because the type of inventory that Martie buys is only available to select buyers so as not to cannibalize the food producers' full-paying buyers. 

Is there enough to make the idea worthwhile for a consumer?

The idea may be unique, but is it sustainable? Fritjofsson thinks Martie has already proven that it is and that its continuing geographic expansion solidifies that argument. 

She told ConsumerAffairs that the company has already worked directly with 1,500+ large brands and producers to shop their ever-changing supply of surplus pantry, household, body care, gluten-free, and organic goods. Those companies include KIND, Kellogg’s, Quaker, and Annie’s Homegrown.

In turn, Martie then sells those items to consumers at up to 70% off the retail prices they’d pay elsewhere. Fritjofsson figures that a person who buys from the store once a month can save an average of $54 per order vs shopping at traditional grocery stores, saving over $600 a year.

To put Martie to the test, ConsumerAffairs looked at what kinds of things Martie could qualify as a “good deal,” and there were more options than one might think.

For example, Gogo Squeez Organic Applesauce Strawberry (4 Pack) was only $2.99 at Martie compared to $5.39 at Amazon. When we checked Kroger, the only way to get it there was to buy a whole case (12 pkgs.) of the same Gogo product and that would set a consumer back $86.13.

The only “if” with the Martie version is that the “best by” date was May 13, 2023, which isn't a problem since that's two months and a child can probably go through four packages in that time.

“Shelf-stable” is key

Fritjofsson said that one thing the company looks for is “shelf-stable” items. In other words, food that is able to survive for a long time. 

Some examples of shelf-stable foods she mentioned are canned goods, dry legumes and grains, coffees, teas, cooking oils, or anything that stays in the pantry like cereal, chocolate, pasta and snacks. 

“Unlike fresh produce that goes bad within a week or two, this food comes in packaging that lets it stay for a while without spoiling,” she told ConsumerAffairs. “Because of a longer life, pantry goods are great to keep around, and are an essential part of any kitchen and diet.”

Consistency of availability is a company goal, too. Fritjofsson said that Martie has certain staple categories that are always stocked, including pasta and pasta sauces, rice and beans, coffees and teas, cooking oils, and snacks.

She added that the company is dedicated to offering healthy alternatives for each category, so it also has a well-stocked selection of organic and gluten-free options.

Right now, Martie is available for grocery shoppers in the Western U.S., but in April, it will begin an eastern expansion, starting first with the Midwest and Southern regions, and parts of the Northeast. By October, Fritjofsson said that it will begin shipping to customers nationwide.

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