Business

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee taps Jon M. Chu, director of Crazy Rich Asians to drive grocery growth

Weee online grocery delivery start-up! Encourage customers to share videos of recipes and favorites on their app. It specializes in hard-to-find Asian foods, along with fruits, vegetables, and other staples.

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Weee Starts Online Grocery! specializes in hard to find dishes from Asian and Spanish cuisine. It sparked another kind of rarity earlier this year: A big Hollywood name in its executive suite.

The company hired Jon M. Chu, director of “Crazy Rich Asians” and the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” as its creative director. Chu is bringing his storytelling expertise from films, in which food and culture play a central role, to an in-house team of about 10 people highlighting the unique dishes and ingredients needed to make food. do them – on sale on Weee ever-expanding! online platform.

Chu said he imagines bringing unique features to the online grocery store, such as playlists of songs that customers can listen to while they cook or the next email they can get about. history of items they have purchased.

“For me, this is more important than just doing a job for a startup,” he said. “This is about my storytelling in a new form.”

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee sells more than 10,000 products, from food-specific items like kimchi and frozen shrimp dumplings to staples like milk, bananas, and chicken breasts. Shoppers can browse the company’s website and apps in different languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean or Spanish. On the app, shoppers can also order takeout from more than 1,000 restaurants.

The San Francisco Bay Area-based startup now delivers fresh groceries to 18 states and shelf-stable products to all 48 lower states. It has eight fulfillment centers around the country, in states including Washington to New Jersey, where orders are packed and shipped.

The company is trying to stand out in a divided space – and preview what online shopping might look like in the future. The grocery store app and website shake up the typical online grocery shopping experience to make it more social and immersive.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee encourage customers to upload videos of their favorite recipes and dishes to their apps through a TikTok-like feature. Shoppers can purchase the snacks and ingredients featured in those videos with the click of a button. They get a discount if they refer a friend or family member and can share custom coupons for items they’ve recently purchased.

“We just believe that grocery shopping shouldn’t be like what we see today,” said founder and CEO Larry Liu. “It should be much, much better, much, more inspirational and fun.”

Changing tastes

Over the past two years, consumers have embraced new ways to refill their refrigerators and develop an extended palate while cooking more at home. That has prompted some to try out meal kits, deliver groceries to their doorstep or use curbside pickup.

The pandemic has sparked growth for Weee! The privately-backed startup declined to share its total number of customers and revenue, but said it has completed more than 15 million orders to date. Its monthly active users increased by more than 150% year over year. To date, the startup has raised more than $800 million in funding — including a $425 million investment round announced in February led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

The pandemic has also catalyzed the US online grocery market, which makes up a small but growing portion of total industry sales. Online grocery sales nearly doubled from $29.3 billion in 2019 to $57 billion in 2020, according to IRI E-Market Insights and Coresight Research. Online grocery sales in the country will reach nearly $90 billion this year, according to company estimates. However, tradition still dominates the grocery industry, with 95% of retail food spending taking place in stores by 2021, according to Coresight research.

Online grocery retailers don’t have sample stalls, colorful displays and other experiences that draw people to the store and buy, said Ken Fenyo, research president and advisor at Coresight Research. goods quickly.

In stores, customers “can smell fruit. You can walk the aisles and see if there’s something new you want,” he said. “Online tends to be more search. more, more list-oriented.”

Retailers like Weee! Fenyo says it’s possible to revive the experience elements for grocery shopping to make e-commerce more fun and personalized. Other direct-to-consumer grocery stores have made specials, such as Thrive Market, which sells organic and natural foods, or Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods, which sells grocery groceries high quality at a cheaper price by offering shaped fruits and vegetables, broken almonds or similar items.

Challenge for Weee! and other smaller online grocer players are winning new customers, keeping delivery costs low and fending off traditional grocers who may be encroaching on their niche, Fenyo said. .

Larry Liu, a Chinese immigrant, started Weee! because of his own struggle to find his favorite food.

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An Immigrant’s Story

For Liu, 41, the challenges inspired Weee! is personal.

Liu, a first-generation Chinese immigrant, founded the company in 2015 after struggling to find some of his own favorite dishes. He got tired of driving an hour and a half to his nearest Asian market and got inspired when he saw WeChat groups hosted by other people who didn’t like the hobby at home. In one, a woman coordinated a group order for friends — and friends of friends — who wanted to buy fresh cod from Half Moon Bay in California.

That experience later shaped several Weee! distinguishing features of the app, such as a social media-like “Community” tab with a mix of company and user-generated videos.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Catering to customers who live in low-density communities, Liu said, supports a large Asian market like H Mart from international students attending college in the United States to seniors. live in assisted living facilities. Most customers order more than twice per month and Weee! about 40% to 50% of their monthly grocery budget, he said.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee are gradually adding spanish foods. It offers a catalog of Mexican cuisine in California and Texas.

Popular items include daily staples like rice and fresh vegetables, along with seasonal items, such as Vietnamese sweet cantaloupe, hot pot kits from Southern China, and cakes sesame from Northern China during the Lunar New Year.

Its app also has a rotating list of recommendations, such as Japanese snacks to celebrate sakura, or cherry blossoms, seasons or dishes for Mother’s Day. It also offers a growing range of beauty and home goods, such as Korean cosmetics.

Jon M. Chu attends Disney’s “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings” Premiere at El Capitan Theater on August 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Axel | Bauer-Griffin | FilmMagic | beautiful pictures

A new kind of storytelling

Before Weee! hired film director Chu, he saw the company’s delivery vans, heard about the company from friends, and started taking deliveries as a customer for Korean barbecue ingredients like sauce and short ribs. Intrigued by the company and its mission, he reached out to Liu. Their conversation led to a job offer.

Chu will soon begin directing Universal Pictures’ adaptation of the Broadway hit “Wicked,” alongside Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo. Despite the big project, he said he wanted to make room in his schedule for Weee!

As a child, Chu used to do his homework at the bar of Chef Chu’s, the family restaurant his parents opened in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1969. The restaurant stands out for its popularity. a video of Weee’s purpose! Connecting generations and cultures through food.

Now a father himself, Chu said he wants to make sure his three young children learn about their culture.

“I want them, when they smell Asian food, [to feel] that it’s not weird or weird for them,” he said. It’s home to them the way it is to me. “

Chu recently took advantage of his Rolodex connection to Hollywood, working with Disney and Pixar to develop recipes and shoot videos for Weee! The app is inspired by “Turning Red”, a coming-of-age movie about a Chinese-Canadian teenager who is transformed into a giant red panda. Chu interviewed the film’s director, Domee Shi, about making the film and unboxing some of her childhood favorite snacks.

By telling the stories behind the dishes, grocers can introduce people to new traditions and flavors, says Chu and Liu.

Erin Edwards, 34, of Santa Ana, California, and her family are one such foodie. Edwards, who is neither Asian nor Hispanic, placed his first order from Weee! in February after watching a video shared by a friend. Since then, she has continued to shop with the site to supplement her weekly shopping at Trader Joe’s and Target.

Her family of four buys Chinese snacks and ingredients to make Asian dishes, from crab-flavored fries to noodles to homemade pho. Pocky’s Japanese chocolate-dipped biscuits, have become a favorite dessert for her 2-year-old daughter, Holland, and her 4-year-old daughter, Wren.

“Seeing people make videos and tutorials, it becomes so easy,” she said. “We’ve been more empowered to do it ourselves.”

Liu said he noticed a similar sharing culture in his three young children.

“Classmates, whatever their skin color, they all drink boba milk tea. They all eat sushi. They all eat Korean barbecue, Indian curries and Mexican tacos,” he said. “So I think that future generations, their palates will be very, very diverse. In a way, we’re really building categories for future cultural explorers. “

Disclosure: CNBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of Universal Pictures.

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