Online Grocery Shopping : A Look Behind the Scenes

ShanghaiMamas is pleased to present a behind-the-scenes look at our newest sponsor, Epermarket.

If you are one of the thousands of families that now order your groceries online, you may have questioned how this process works exactly. How do the online supermarkets get products from the warehouse to your home in a timely fashion, while not compromising quality? ShanghaiMamas went behind the scenes with CEO and founder of Epermarket, Mr. Jean Yves Lu to learn more about what goes on at one of Shanghai’s largest online supermarkets. 



Mr. Lu, why did you decide to open Epermarket back in 2011?


After working in France and working in the Food and Beverage industry for many years I decided to move my family back to China. Upon our return I immediately became genuinely concerned about the food quality and safety in China and was dissatisfied with what was available on the market. I was determined to find a way to provide expat families like my own with safe, healthy, and affordable food and products. With this mission in mind, I started Epermarket in 2011 with just 17 employees and a selection of 300 products. This has now grown over the years to 130+ employees and 7,000+ products.


How does Epermarket ensure the quality of the products they provide?


Above all things, quality, freshness and safety are our first priority. We were the first online supermarket to receive ISO 9001, we regularly test the safety of our products, and even run our own organic farm, Eperfarm. Product quality, safety and diversity starts at the source, our suppliers. From the beginning, even before it enters our warehouse, we are very selective about where our products come from and how they have been handled along the way. The first step of our selection process is Supplier Selection. To even be considered as an Epermarket supplier, each company must show that they strictly follow international quality control guidelines such as respect for cold chain, full traceability of their products, and have authentic certificates of origin as well as any other relevant licenses. Products that have made it through the entire Supplier Selection process and have been approved are stored in our 5-temperature controlled warehouse. Temperature control is the key when it comes to our deliveries, and our Quality Control, Warehouse, and Logistics teams pay a great deal of attention to this key detail. This way, fresh items stay fresh, frozen items stay frozen, and everything arrives at your door safe and sound!


How does Epermarket source its vegetables and fruit?


We have high-standards, and our partner farms are no exception – our farms go through the same selection process as the rest of our suppliers. In addition, we conduct regular farm visits and checks to make sure that they are continuing to follow to our strict international quality standards.  Also, in order to provide organic vegetables and fresh herbs that are difficult to find in China, we started our own organic farm, called EperFarm. EperFarm strives for sustainable crop production to grow food in an ecologically and ethically responsible manner and is established through cooperation with Foodpedia, an organic farm in Jiading District (Shanghai). Every year, EperFarm is certified by the OFDC, the leading Organic Certification in China, and constantly works in strict accordance with the international standards and regulations of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement), using advanced production and management technology.


How is food stored at Epermarket to ensure it is kept fresh?


Every product needs to be stored in conditions that optimize its quality, and our warehouse has 5 different temperature-controlled rooms to make sure of that.


Products are stored at either -18°C, 0-2°C, 4-8°C, 15°C or room temperature, and every room is specifically designed to maximize the quality of each individual product. For example, fresh meat has to be stored at a temperature that is close to 0°C as storing it at another temperature will affect the look and quality of the product, whereas wine needs to be stored at 15°C otherwise the quality and flavor can be severely affected. Ice cream, on the other hand, needs to be stored in a separate area away from the frozen items, as it can easily absorb flavors from whatever it is stored with and this would ruin the product. 


Typically, most warehouses are built with the receiving and delivery dock located in the same place. In order to improve our internal logistics, our warehouse was built with separate receiving and delivery docks, so not only could we decrease the amount of concentrated traffic in one area of our warehouse, but so we could increase the efficiency of the flow of goods. Any products that go through our receiving dock are inspected upon delivery, checked into our system, labeled and then stored in the appropriate temperature-controlled room of our warehouse. Perishable items in particular are paid extra attention to, in order to maintain the cold chain process. In addition, our fresh vegetables are delivered every morning, and our fresh bread suppliers deliver orders to us up to two times every day in order to maintain maximum freshness. Another key is to always keep our fresh produce selection seasonal, in order to provide our customers only what’s best and freshest all the time.


With such a high volume of deliveries each day, how does Epermarket ensure that each product go to the correct customers?


Getting customers orders delivered perfectly is our main focus and we work hard to maintain our low error rate. Our order delivery system notifies us of any out of stock products or close to expiration products, and when our Warehouse team is putting a customers order together, we have a two-point check system to make sure that no item gets missed. Once an order is packed it is immediately sorted by delivery area, to ensure there are no mix-ups when they are handed off to our drivers!


At such a large company, how do provide an outlet for employees to get away from their desks and release some stress!


Firstly, working at Epermarket is never boring! We are incredibly dedicated to our jobs, but we also have fun in the office. One of our favorites is the regular potluck lunches with food from our diverse international team. Also, we have dedicated areas for our employees to bond or blow off some steam during their break times for basketball, badminton, ping-pong, darts or even foosball. We recently hosted a basketball competition with a team from a neighboring company. When our employees are happy, they look forward to coming to work!