In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the once routine chore of shopping for groceries has became a complicated undertaking. Shoppers are flooding grocery stores, making social distancing difficult to practice, and panic-buying is leaving behind empty shelves and shortages in staples like milk and eggs.
In order to comply with the Stay Home, Work Safe order, more San Antonians are cooking in their kitchens and looking for recipe ingredients to be delivered. Now local food producers are shifting sales online and offering delivery to meet the new demand for straight-to-your-door pantry staples.
Many San Antonians rely on H-E-B for groceries, putting a strain on these stores and their staff. Delivery can help reduce the risk of the virus’s transmission between shoppers and workers, and stores have ramped up delivery capacity in response to the crisis. Still, with more people than ever utilizing the service, delivery orders from H-E-B now have wait times of at least a week, sometimes stretching longer. There is also a maximum number of items per order, and certain items may be substituted at the last minute depending on availability.
At the same time, with farmers markets and other sales options closed, many local food producers are missing their customers and losing sales. While many culinary makers have pickup options at their businesses (including nearly every brewery in the city) or at their farmers markets (like the Pearl), many makers are leaning into the delivery space by strengthening their online shops and sometimes dropping off at front doors themselves.
For Farmhouse Delivery, which carries a wide variety of locally and sustainably grown produce and meats, this crisis has meant a big opportunity. Co-founder Stephanie Scherzer said, “For us a normal month was 300-400 new customers, but the first few days of the quarantine meant we got 100 new customers each hour. We’ve been doing this for 11 years and have never seen a surge like this.”
Shirley Overton, a new customer in Austin, turned to Farmhouse Delivery as an alternative to in-store grocery shopping. “I am so impressed with what [Farmhouse Delivery is] providing during this time of crisis,” she said.
For others like Humble House Foods, it has created a stumbling block. Humble House sold its spreads and sauces at the Pearl Farmers Market for years before getting products into H-E-B, and had just opened a brick-and-mortar taco concept before the stay-at-home order.
“We just shut everything down,” co-founder Luis Morales said. “H-E-B has been reeling, trying to get everything together. They’ve pretty much put a stop to everything that wasn’t staples, and we don’t know when or if they’ll order again.”
Asked about other manufacturers, Morales said, “We’re small, so we got hit first. But in a couple weeks, all the food manufacturers around the city could be shut down.”
Travis Krause, head rancher at Parker Creek Ranch, was more hopeful.
“I just hope this is all a wake-up call for regional food security and the importance of supporting local producers,” he said. “For our business and others, being able to do delivery keeps the wheels spinning, making an income for our families and keeping people employed. Even though we’re not able to shake people’s hands, there’s a real sense of community. Hand delivering products maintains that community spirit.”
Local Food Producers Offering Delivery
Produce and Meats
Other Grocery Staples
Madge’s Fermented Foods*
Lil’ Red’s Boiled Peanuts*
Gourmet Texas Pasta
Other Mother Vinegars
Pawsitively Sweet Dog Treats
River Whey Creamery Cheeses
Sandy Oaks Olive Oil
Tio Pelon Salsita
Humble House Foods Sauces and Spreads
*Mitch Hagney runs a food manufacturing facility in downtown San Antonio called the LocalSprout Food Hub, where these businesses are based.