Like many recent college graduates, the coronavirus pandemic hampered 2019 Cornell University grad Max Levin’s professional plans.
He’d recently received his bachelor’s degree in hotel administration with the intention of working for his family’s South Jersey company that provides wholesale perishables and dry goods to retailers and businesses in the hospitality space. But when the pandemic caused a major disruption to the business, he realized there was a hole in the market to get these products ultimately into consumers’ homes.
“I thought, let’s take all the product that’s close to expiring and sell it for 90% off to consumers,” he said. “Essentially like a Fresh Direct or goPuff, but right from wholesalers.”
He launched the ecommerce startup Best By Supply last spring, and liquidated product from his family’s business, then from other wholesalers that were having trouble moving product. Most food wholesalers have to account for a far-away best-by date to account for time a product sits in a warehouse, is shipped and then sits on a grocery store’s shelf. If a bag of chips is within about a month of its best-by date, for example, no store will want to purchase it and risk selling expired food to a customer, Levin said.
But the idea of Best By is that when customers purchase directly from the startup, they’re aware of the date and will likely consume it within a few days of it hitting their doorstep.
For now, the online shop offers a mix of nonperishable and shelf-stable food like candy, pancake mix, ramen and cereal. Customers can see the best-by date of the item, and a price usually between 50% and 80% off normal retail.
Because the inventory is reliant on what wholesalers have available, it’s subject to change often, Levin said. Best By has also picked up items for the office, home and pets based on sellers like Pet Valu recently shuttering its U.S. stores.
His team is currently made up of himself, his younger brother and a small network of delivery drivers and office administration. Best By currently offers free, same or next-day delivery to any customer in a 25-mile radius of its Pennsauken, New Jersey fulfillment center, with much of its current business focused on Philly, South Jersey and Delaware.
While the business model was formed in the pandemic when many folks were relying heavily on food delivery, Levin said he can see it evolving in the future.
“We ventured in to figure out a void in the market, where grocery stores were packed, but there was still product that wasn’t getting to the consumer,” he said. “The business model will evolve. Right now it’s working, and in the future, whether it be opening a brick-and-mortar store, we’ll continue to distribute online. Only time will tell — we’re just trying to feel the market out and see what people want.”
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