Coborn’s Delivers Tour and Review

I had a chance to tour Coborn’s Delivers grocery delivery warehouse in New Hope, MN this past week. For Twin Cities residents, Coborn’s the company that purchased and revived Simon Delivers under their own brand after Simon Delivers failed to make a successful business out of local grocery delivery. The newly launched service has been open for just over 12 weeks.

This is what their warehouse looks like near dark on a cold evening:

Coborn's Delivers Warehouse Tour

Coborn’s was hosting a customer appreciation day that offered free tastings of local foods they carry along with a warehouse tour. How could I pass that up?

Grocery delivery seems to be something that people either jump into in a big way or don’t use at all. For those that are way into it, it can be a big time saver. For example, our tour guide, Dave Hartman (pictured below) said the average time their more loyal users take to shop for groceries is only 3 minutes 45 seconds.

Here are a few more nuggets about the business and warehouse:

– 185,000 sq ft
– 210 employees
– 7 temperature zones
– $129 / mo avg spend
– 40-41 items in an average order

Coborn's Delivers Warehouse Tour

The system is the background of the above picture is the tote reclaiming department where they clean up the returned totes before putting them back into circulation.

Here’s an example of a pick zone in the dairy section. Seventeen people staff this 3 level section. When a tote arrives, they scan it with the scanner gun. This illuminates lights below dairy items they need to pick for that tote:

Coborn's Delivers Warehouse Tour

This is Brian. He works in produce and is responsible for grading the quality of their product. The Coborn’s site has a rating feature that shows you which produce is particularly good on any given day. Fruit that doesn’t make the cut either goes to group homes (eg. bananas that have freckles) or to local pigs (damaged apples). Quite a bit of the damaged fruit looked pretty darn good. However, one of the biggest concerns they get from clients is whether they can trust other people to pick their fruit for them. This causes them to be extra picky.

Coborn's Delivers Damaged-Fruit Buckets

Below is the machine used to pick dry goods like breads and cereals. It tells pickers when they’re near an items. Once picked, they scan it before placing it in the appropriate tote. Their top pickers are currently hitting accuracy rates in excess of one error per 20,000 items picked.

Coborn's Delivers Warehouse Tour

This photo reminds me of the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc:

Coborn's Delivers Warehouse Tour

They have a LOT of green totes:

Coborn's Delivers Warehouse Tour

Here are a few more nuggets:

– They have a slight lag in inventory status, so if you order at the very last minute there’s a chance one of your items may not be in the warehouse. They roll up the missing items into an order that’s sent to one of their retail grocery stores in Albertville where it’s picked off the shelves. If it’s still not available, they’ll try to find a substitute brand such as Hunts rather than Heinz ketchup. Lesson: don’t place your order at 10:59pm.

– Their fish is fresh. Really fresh. Online orders are sent to their fish supplier in real time. Fish arrive in MSP around midnight, are processed in a local plant, then get to Coborn’s warehouse around 2:45am. They don’t stock any fish at the warehouse.

– Thanks to the local companies who provided great samples of their offerings, including Peace Coffee and Finnegan’s beer. Frankly, I may stop buying Peace Coffee until they remove the stupid Flash intro from their website, but I really do love their beans.

– Update: I can’t spell. Thank to Alan for pointing out that Coburn is actual Coborn’s. Unrelated to the tour, but the homepage of Coburn Delivers warehouse is a hurting them. As of this writing, they don’t show up in the first 100 results for their company’s name. Not good. Coburn, if you’d like some help with that, let me know. I’d like to see you succeed or fail based on the quality of your food and service rather than technical issues like this.

Coborn's Delivers Warehouse Tour

16 thoughts on “Coborn’s Delivers Tour and Review”

  1. Thanks Ed! I didn’t think I would use an online/delivery grocery but it is saving us money. We originally planned to use Coborn’s one day a week and go to Kowalski’s one day a week. Now we are getting almost all of our groceries from Coborn’s. We don’t get all the impulse items that get thrown away as unused later and their prices are competitive.

    As for the website not showing up in the first 100 hits. Your flickr page shows as the top hit now when you look for Coburn Delivers. But, if you spell their company name correctly, they are the top hits. There is no u, it is an o.

    Thanks for the pictures, I wish I had gone to the open house.

  2. Hmm, let me guess, by tomorrow if I google ‘coburn delivers’, The Deets will be the top listing, eh?

    Good summary, and if they are picky fruit shoppers, they will pick better fruit than I do, as my selection skills are pretty weak.

    If I was bigger at eating from home, I’d do it now, but I’m not sure if I should bother though since my current shopping is about 20 items every other week and I have a huge problem with throwing away spoiled food that I forgot to keep moving.

    I also enjoy getting outta the house and into the local restaurants, even Taco Bell #1487 is a night out for me. Both cooking AND shopping for one is a drag, but for two or more, I think Coburns has the solution.

  3. Thanks Alan. I’ve cleaned it up. I was consistently wrong.

    Coborn’s should consider putting up an AdWords ad for the typo so people like me get to the right place. Also, I see that Gopher Grocery is advertising on Coborn’s name. That deserves some attention.

  4. Services like this are great if you are organized and plan ahead, myself I am at the grocery store three four times a week. I buy groceries by the meal maybe two/three meals ahead if I’m lucky. I wish these guys luck but I think they have a pretty tight niche between folks like me and costco warehouse style shopping.

  5. I think in this economy if people looked at not only the ‘savings’ they get in a warehouse style of savings and subtract how much of that they throw away, they would actually be ahead planning meals and buying just what they need. The other part of meal planning is getting healthier meals. Since we started with Coborn’s we are throwing away less and eating more healthy meals. We are also spending less money. We have Coborn’s deliver twice a week so we only have to plan 3 or 4 meals. In fact, it is time to do the next order now.

  6. Can we screen whether Alan works for Coborns?

    Anyhow – seems like this business model would be more successful than it is; so many people seem to hate grocery shopping, and this seems like a really easy way to minimize it. I wish them luck. By the way, Coborns, if you’re interested, I think there’s still a few of Simon Deliver’s green bins at the Metropolitan Lofts condos from 2 years ago.

  7. We used to use simon delivers and I did some price comparison from one of our Target trips and I just can’t recommend it based on price. Many items are simply more expensive via the delivers service. If I’m going to pay that much more I might as well shop at Lunds or something.

  8. The lead time is the issue for me, if I could order at 3pm and have my food by six..done deal…maybe they ought get ahold of a couple of strib delivery guys or cabbies and set it up courier style.

    No margins in dry food and produce, thatts why they have to charge more than even lunds, plus they lose the slotting fees.

  9. Scott, this may sound like an ad, but they did mention during the tour that their average prices are now around 6% lower than when it was Simon Delivers. I believe this is because they offer many store brand products.

  10. I just had to add a comment about the confusion on the spelling of the Coborn’s name. I just noticed that my credit card statement shows the transactions as Coburnsdelivers. They just don’t get any respect.

  11. This service is fantastic. I actually save money because I am not tempted buying impulse items that may be wasted because they didn’t get used. My husband is ill and getting to the store will be increasingly difficult so I am doubly grateful. I recommend them to everyone.

  12. Being a 74-year-old retired person with health issues that make shopping impossible, I have to
    say I love Coborn’s and don’t know what I’d do without them. I ordered from Simon when they
    were in business and was heartbroken when they went out. The prices are comparable, and
    even with the delivery fee, I truly feel I’m still ahead. Quality is always good, mistakes are rare,
    and I have yet to find a delivery person who isn’t polite, pleasant, accomodating, and all those
    good qualities. Same goes for customer service people. I don’t know who does the hiring, but
    thus far, there isn’t a clinker in the bunch. I love ’em all!!!!

    Anyone who wants to lower grocery bills ought try what I do. Try store brands! I’ve done this
    with a couple of more expensive items e.g. mayonnaise and ketchup. You can save at least a
    dollar on each of these items and I can’t tell the difference between the top-selling brands and
    the store brands. This is true of any number of items.

    Sorry about the length of this comment, but I’ve wanted to do this forever and now I’m happy.
    Thanks Coborn’s for being here for people like me and doing business as you do with the people
    you hire. You’re a godsend!!!

  13. after my recent sexperience with corborns delivers, I can tell you i would not reccomedn them to ANYONE! I seacrched their sight high and low for information before placing and order. I shopped for nearly two hours. I then went to the order page and was unable to place my order. I called them and they were less then helpful and extrmely rude. I still have not been able to place and order and will not be using their company again,. They wasted about4 hours out of my day and were considerably rude. Thanks for nothing Corbons Delivers

  14. @Mom2Boys, that’s a shame to hear. If your experience was the norm, I think Coborn’s would be out of business by now. If it takes you 4 hours to shop online, there is a good chance that going to a physical store is a better option for you.

  15. I am a disabled person who has difficulty getting a ride to pick up provisions. I absolutely LOVE Cobornsdelivers! The meat and produce are fantastic! I’ve also found their pricing to be competitive and the nominal delivery fee ($5.00) is well worth it! Especially in the dead of Winter! All the people I’ve had contact with are helpful and courteous I highly recommend people to use this service, you will LOVE it!

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