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We use Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu for grocery growth

Online grocery delivery startup Weee! Encourage customers to share recipes and videos of their favorite items in the app. We specialize in hard-to-find Asian dishes, along with fruits, vegetables and other classic dishes.

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Online grocery startup Weee specializes in hard-to-find foods from Asian and Hispanic cuisine. It robbed another kind of rarity earlier this year: the big Hollywood name for its executive suite.

The company has hired John M. Chu, the director of “Crazy Rich Asians” and the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” as chief creative officer. Chu brings storytelling expertise from movies, where cooking and culture play a central role, to an in-house team of about 10 people who spotlight unique dishes and the ingredients needed to make them. platform.

Chu envisions bringing unconventional features to online grocery stores, such as playlists of songs that customers can listen to while cooking, and follow-up emails that they may receive about the history of purchased items. I said that I am doing it.

“For me, this was more important than just working for a startup,” he said. “This was about taking a new form of my storytelling.”

Weee sells over 10,000 products, from cooking-specific products such as kimchi and frozen shrimp dumplings to classic products such as milk, bananas and chicken breast. Shoppers can browse the company’s websites and apps in a variety of languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Spanish. The app also allows shoppers to order takeaways from over 1,000 restaurants.

San Francisco Bay Area-based start-ups now provide fresh groceries in 18 states and shelf-stable foods in all 48 states of the continental United States. There are eight fulfillment centers nationwide in states, including New Jersey, from Washington where orders are packed and shipped.

The company strives to stand out in fragmented spaces, previewing what grocery shopping online will look like in the future. Grocery apps and websites rock the typical experience of online food shopping, making it more sociable and immersive.

Weee encourages customers to upload recipes and videos of their favorite foods to the app using features like TikTok. Shoppers can buy the snacks and ingredients featured in those videos at the click of a button. Introduce your friends and family to get discounts and share custom coupons for recently purchased items.

“We believe that food shopping shouldn’t be what you see today,” said Larry Liu, founder and chief executive officer. “It should be much better, much better, much more exciting and fun.”

Change the taste

Over the last two years, consumers have adopted new ways to fill their refrigerators, Developed expanded palate While cooking more at home. As a result, they began to try meal kits, deliver groceries to doors, and use curbside pickups.

The COVID pandemic Stimulated Wee’s growth. A privately-owned venture-backed startup refused to share total revenue with its customers, but said it had processed more than 15 million orders so far. Monthly active users have increased by more than 150% year-on-year. To date, the startup has raised over $ 800 million. This includes a $ 425 million investment round announced in February, led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

The pandemic also catalyzed the US online grocery market. This is a small but growing part of the industry’s total sales. According to IRI E-Market Insights and Coresight Research, online grocery sales have nearly doubled from $ 29.3 billion in 2019 to $ 57 billion in 2020. The company estimates that online grocery sales in the country will reach nearly $ 90 billion this year. Still, according to a Coresight study, physical stores still dominate the grocery category, with 95% of food retail spending in stores in 2021.

Ken Fenyo, President of Research and Advisory at Coresight Research, says that online grocery stores do not have sample stations, colorful displays, and other experiences that attract people to the store and encourage them to buy.

At the store, customers “can smell the fruit. You can walk down the aisle to see if you want something new. There may be that serendipity.” Oh, I needed it. I forgot. Let’s throw it in. ‘”He said,” Online tends to be search-driven and list-driven. “

Retailers like Wee can bring back the empirical element of grocery shopping to make e-commerce more exciting and personal, Fenho said. Other direct consumer grocery stores include the Thrive Market, which sells organic and natural foods, malformed fruits and vegetables, broken almond pieces, and similar items.

The challenge for We and other small online grocery players is to attract new customers, keep delivery costs low, and dodge traditional grocery stores that can break into the lawn.

Chinese immigrant Larry Liu has started Wee! He had a hard time finding his favorite food.

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Immigration story

For 41-year-old Liu, the challenges that influenced Weee were personal.

Liu, a first-generation Chinese immigrant, founded the company in 2015 after struggling to find his favorite food. He was fed up with an hour and a half drive to the nearest Asian market and was inspired to see the WeChat group organized by others who missed their home hobby. One is a woman who adjusted a group order for a friend (and a friend of a friend) who wants to buy fresh cod from Half Moon Bay, California.

That experience later shaped some of the distinctive features of the Weee app, such as the “Community” tab, which resembles a social media network with mixed company and user-generated videos.

Mr. Wee said he caters to customers living in less dense communities that support large Asian markets, such as H Mart, from international students attending colleges in the United States to senior citizens living in living support facilities. .. Most customers order more than once a month, and Weee accounts for about 40% to 50% of the monthly grocery budget, he said.

We are also gradually adding Hispanic foods. We serve Mexican food categories in California and Texas.

Popular items include daily necessities such as rice and fresh vegetables, as well as seasonal items such as Vietnamese sweet winter melon, pot kits from southern China, and New Year’s sesame cakes from northern China.

The app also has a rotation list of suggestions, such as Japanese treats celebrating “Sakura”, Mother’s Day cherry blossoms, seasons, and treats. In addition, the lineup of beauty and household products such as Korean cosmetics is increasing.

Jon M. Chu will attend the premiere of Disney’s “Legend of Shanchi and Tenling” at the El Capitan Theater on August 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Axel | Bauer-Griffin | FilmMagic | Getty Images

A new kind of storytelling

Before We hired movie director Chu, he had already seen the company’s delivery truck, heard about the company from a friend, and began receiving deliveries as a customer of Korean barbecue ingredients such as sauces 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” with Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo. Despite the big project, he said he wanted to allow for Wee’s schedule.

As a kid, Chu often did his homework at the bar at Chef Chu’s, a family restaurant that his parents had in the San Francisco Bay Area for about 50 years.The restaurant is featured in Video about the purpose of Wee Connecting generations and culture through food.

Now his father, Chu, said he wanted to make sure that the three young children were learning about their culture.

“When they smelled Asian food, I wanted them. [to feel] It was neither exotic nor strange to them, “he said.

Chu recently took advantage of Hollywood’s connection with Lorodex to work with Disney and Pixar to create a giant red panda for a Chinese-Canadian teenager. Chu interviewed film director Domee Shi about making the film and unpacked some of her favorite childhood treats.

Chu and Liu said that by telling the story behind cooking, grocery services can introduce people to new traditions and tastes.

Erin Edwards, 34, from Santa Ana, California, and her family are one such dieter. Edwards, neither Asian nor Hispanic, made her first order to Wee in February after watching a video shared by his friends. Since then, she has been shopping on the site to supplement her weekly shopping at Trader Joe’s. Goal..

Her family of four bought Chinese snacks and ingredients for Asian recipes, from crab-flavored potato chips to homemade pho noodles. Pocky, a biscuit stick soaked in Japanese chocolate, has become a favorite dessert for two-year-old daughter Holland and four-year-old daughter Ren.

“Watching people make videos and do tutorials makes it a lot easier,” she said. “We were much more empowered by doing it ourselves.”

Liu said he believes that the three young children have a similar shared culture.

“My classmates drink Boba milk tea, regardless of skin color. I eat sushi. I eat Korean barbecue, Indian curry, and Mexican tacos,” he said. “So I think future generations, their tastes will be very diverse. In a sense, we are really building an assortment for future cultural explorers.”

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

We use Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu for grocery growth

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