Jupiter co-founder and CEO Chad Munroe gets the appeal of shopping in a physical grocery store: There's the satisfying inspiration in new-product discovery and the potential to get questions answered by a butcher or cheesemonger who knows what they're talking about.
But then there are the lines, and the crowds, and the calculus of, "Do I want to add a 30-minute trip to my day to get milk and bread, or do I want to spend time adding a bunch of other items to an online order to meet a delivery minimum?"
It was those consumer conundrums that made Munroe (second from left, above) and his three fellow co-founders of grocery delivery platform Jupiter want to flip the script on online grocery shopping: adding in the social elements and real-person conversations that online shopping has lacked while automating replenishment for all of the more mundane staples that shoppers just want to keep on hand—diapers, milk and cereal, for example.
It's "a different level of convenience—convenience of the mind," said Munroe, who founded San Francisco-based Jupiter with former Stanford classmates in 2019. Today, Jupiter serves most of the Bay Area, delivering from a nearby warehouse that is served by local wholesalers and producers. (Jupiter notes that its delivery drivers are employees rather than independent contractors; the company said all personnel are paid a living wage with benefits.)
Jupiter users can opt for weekly replenishment of their most-needed items and also peruse more than 2,000 user-submitted recipes. In addition, after inputting the number of people and pets in their household and their dietary preferences (low-carb, nut-free or vegetarian, for example), users receive personalized shopping recommendations. There is no sign-up or subscription fee.
It's all meant to cut in half the 10 hours that Jupiter estimates households spend each week in meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking.
"We look at food holistically in the sense that for us, food is about feeding your family, end to end," said Munroe. "[It means] understanding your preferences and your dietary needs, what diets you’re on, the communities you’re a part of, because food is a social thing. It’s about the people. It always has been that way."
Munroe spoke with Winsight Grocery Business recently about why he sees room for—even a need for—both automation and socialization in grocery e-commerce.
Christine LaFave Grace: One of the big things Jupiter touts as a differentiator is this social element: Users can share recipes, post pictures of the items they've made, join online communities based on their dietary preferences, etc. Why is that element important?
Chad Munroe: A lot of people in our lives influence our decisions, but a lot of [online] platforms today are single-player, I call them: No one influences your decision but yourself. And so we’re building a platform that’s more emotional, [more about] connecting people and helping each other make decisions. We think that’s faster than you just trying to make a decision. And it's more satisfying: You build trust with people; you make connections.
"It’s crazy to think that the same thing that happened in clothing to some retail players like Sears could happen to grocery."
Jupiter has personalized quizzes, a la Stitch Fix, that users can take so that the platform gets a better sense of their preferences and can make more-intelligent shopping suggestions. Are you looking to be the Stitch Fix of grocery?
What makes Stitch Fix special—their foundation is heavy data science, heavy machine learning—we will definitely do that. One thing you can do on our platform is tell us how much you have of an item.
Jupiter will be two years old this summer. Is there anything you’ve shifted based on what you all saw and experienced in the past year?
Absolutely. We’ve had to listen to the customer more and figure out how to serve them better in this time. That encouraged us to go in the direction we’re going in: It’s content commerce—doing your shopping based on content.
Content commerce is something we don’t think is massive in the U.S., but it will be. One of the things you’ll see with Jupiter is people will run businesses on Jupiter as content creators. We’ll give them a blog—that will do a lot for our business in terms of the [customer] acquisition costs. Creators will play a massive role.
Also, being a content-first platform, people are going to think about us slightly different than just grocery delivery. People are going to associate us with, “Ah, the keto community is on Jupiter, or I can find keto recipes on Jupiter, so I’m just going to go there.” People are going to enter the process differently and then do grocery as a result.
Do you have any plans to get into real-time shopping events—live-streamed events or other video endeavors?
It’s on our road map. One of the things we’ve done is cooking classes, and people have loved it. Our vision is that people are going to be cooking together on Jupiter. Video will be a big, big part of Jupiter.
Who are some of your partners and who are some of your targets going forward?
We run our own supply chain. We source locally from local wholesale providers, and it allows us to run a very good business. We’re full-stack; we have a small warehouse in the city, and we deliver weekly to people. I’m keeping that side of the business as simple as possible.
Do you have specific goals in mind for the rest of 2021? The next 12 to 18 months?
We want to double down on automation and continue building out shopping. We want to get to about 50 creators by the end of the year and about 25 active communities where people are talking to each other, and then expand out to the rest of the Bay Area. We serve the majority of the Bay Area, but we would like to expand out a little bit more. Today we predict 60% of what people order. I’d love that to be about 70% by the end of the year.
We’re trying to build more of an emotional experience. One of the reasons I think physical grocery stores have [continued to be] dominant is it’s still more an emotional experience than online. Online is more about utility. The loyalty people that have to the people they know at their local stores is really high, and so a lot of them I think will still be around, but we could see a few fade.
It’s crazy to think that the same thing that happened in clothing to some retail players like Sears could happen to grocery.