Kolonial: Online Grocery Shopping in Oslo II
Stuff changes so fast in Oslo. Many might think Norway remains old or stodgy or slow. Wrong. These days there's a revolution-a-minute when it comes to new enterprise. The level of education is high here. Norwegians are also overwhelmingly technologically literate and quick to embrace new tech as it comes. A couple of years ago, I wrote a short post on online grocery shopping in Oslo, highlighting a company we used exclusively at the time called Dagligvarerexpressen (Dex). It was one of only a couple options available at the time. Since then, several other delivery companies have popped up, so I thought it was time for an update here!
First of all, grocery delivery in Oslo has boomed, and there's a new, very successful kid in town. Kolonial.no showed up seemingly overnight and has taken the industry by storm. Already, it's absorbing up its competitors. I think this is partly because, unlike Dex and the rest, Kolonial.no's website is incredibly user-friendly, though not available in English.
We've used Kolonial.no, and they provide very good service. In partnership with Rema 1000, their selection continues to grow, which is nice, as we are attached to certain brands. Delivery fees in town begin at only 39 nok. (You can also pick up your order at one of thirty pick-points in the city for free.) When the delivery person arrived with my last order, she said she'd decided not to bring the greenbeans I ordered because they looked pretty bad. "Our produce is usually better," she said. Rather than tossing it in anyway and letting the customer sort it out, she was proactive about bringing only the best. The refund was automatic.
Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to interview Kolonial.no's cofounder, Karl Munthes-Haas, in September for Startup Guide Oslo. His story is fascinating, and you can read my full interview with him (along with several other exciting entrepreneurs) in the book. Here's one thing that stuck with me. When I asked what motivates him to come to work each day, building Kolonial.no into the number one grocery delivery company in Oslo, he said:
"I like that the value of the company is not just in the profit the company brings in, but also the benefit it provides to its consumers, above what they pay for. That's what motivates me. Let's say we do ten thousand deliveries in a week; that's at least ten thousand hours saved for the people who buy from us. Once the ball starts rolling, you get swallowed up in the responsibilities--employees to think about, orders that need to be filled, growth that needs to be done--but I think the underlying motivation is still creating value, which is good."
Karl's work ethic and vision for the company are inspiring and definitely in keeping with Scandinavian ideals about business and equality. It makes me feel good to support them.
We're also fans of Kolonihagen. Don't be confused! It's a totally different company. Kolonihagen offers baskets of fresh ingredients for specified meals, as well as a la carte organic produce and groceries. We subscribe to the Vegetar Matkasse (vegetarian food basket) for two adults. This includes recipes for three meals and exactly the ingredients we need to cook them. There are also options for larger baskets, as well as meat and fish meals. When the Hazelnut (who is closing in on turning two years old!) isn't being picky, the receipe yield is usuall enough for all three of us.
It's been about six months since we started our membership. Overall, we're pleased. I'd say we manage to make all the meals in the basket about 90% of the time. We've only run into two or three meals that we didn't want to eat. The rest are solid, creative, yummy. There have even been meals we've LOVED (particularly the spectacular soups!). Only rarely do the recipes repeat, so there's no fatigue on that score. A couple of times items have arrived on the cusp of going bad or molding. The company has refunded us for a loaf of bread, for example, without pushback. Kolonihagen also has a sleek, simple website that makes it easy for members to log in and place an order or pause the delivery for a week or two.
Kolonihagen also runs a chain of restaurants around town. A few years ago, I had a less-than-optimal experience at the one in Frogner. Nothing to go into detail about here. But when I mentioned it in passing on social media, the manager got in touch with me and offered a comped meal to make up for it. I appreciate that kind of customer service. It meant I didn't cringe at the name when the basket delivery started, happily.
And if you've been in Oslo for more than an hour, you've definitely seen the bright pink Foodora cyclists zipping all over town. I can hardly remember what life was like here before them. (Wait. Yes I can. Less lazy for me.)
Now, if you want fried chicken or tandoori lamb or tacos with mango salso or falafel brought to your door, all you have to do is order via the website or the smartphone app. Seriously easy. Seriously worth it. When you log in, they list what's available by distance and/or estimated time of delivery. (Do I want pizza now? Or a spicy cheeseburger forty-five minutes from now?) If takeout wasn't so blasted expensive in Oslo anyway, I'd do this all the time. But for a special occasion, I'm just so glad to have the option.
So there you go. Growth. I've been in Oslo almost six years, and this part of the landscape is almost entirely different from what it was back in little old 2011. Hopefully I'll find time and energy to blog about the excellent improvement in the food culture generally. Until then, I'll just mention the 4GRINGOS taco trucks that hang out at Youngstorget and Aker Brygge. Scrumptious and spicy! Happy eating!