Gerald.ph Pioneers Cold-Chain Food Delivery in Metro Manila

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Gerald.ph is a healthy food and gourmet grocery delivery, online deli, and gluten-free food delivery in Metro Manila and around the Philippines. The shop began as Icebox gourmet store at the Ecoplaza along Pasong Tamo in Makati in 2010; evolved as a French and European online specialty store in 2015; and, boomed in 2020. Business peaked when the pandemic struck, driving consumers to shop online, and when Geoff got onboard as Gerald’s business partner, finance manager, and lucky charm. Gerald.ph is on Esquire’s lists of 11 best online specialty grocery stores in 2020 and alternative online grocery stores in the Philippines to try in 2019. •

Gerald Said: “We want a clean website, improved services, and greater product range. We want to carry Italian stuff like ravioli pasta, meatless products, no-fish products, mushroom-based products, and breaded scallop burgers,” Egrasse enthusiastically shared. The new website design should be able to identify customers if they’re shopping frozen, fresh, or dry. “We also plan to partner with restaurants and bakeries for our read-to-eat meals; but, instead of pushing the restaurants, we’re pushing for the Gerald.ph brand.”

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There’s a lot to be said when a business is able to adapt to its changing environment. Take for example Gerald.Ph, a “small startup” healthy and gourmet grocer, which experienced a major growth in customer traffic when the pandemic began in March 2020 while others didn’t have a choice but to close shop.

“When the pandemic started, we had to make two major decisions,” Gerald Egasse, Gerald.Ph’s Marketing Director says. “First, to strengthen our online payment options and second, to encourage our staff to continue working, which we did by housing them near our office.”

During the hard lockdown, Gerald.Ph had to limit its area of service to Makati and BGC but even then, they still received around 200 individual orders per day. They had to eventually put a limit on daily orders as with a skeletal workforce, “we didn’t want to collapse and likewise disappoint our customers.”

Clearly, customer service is very important for Gerald, who has been in the food industry for over 15 years. Born in Lyon, France, he grew up in South Africa where his parents worked in the IT industry.

That early, Gerald was already exposed to a bigger world that exposed him to different people and heritage. After finishing his masters in business in France, he was immediately hired by a French company that processes poultry.

“I was in purchasing and we sourced chicken and ducks from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Thailand, and China,” Gerald recalls. “For two weeks I would be there, make some purchases and R&D.”

Eventually, he fell in love with the appeal of Asia and after working in France, decided to come to the Philippines at the age of 27 to open his own business.  “I’m really attracted to Asia,” Gerald says. “I’ve seen the culture and lifestyle and I knew this is something that I wanted.”

Having done business with the best suppliers of top quality gourmet items, Gerald wanted to give the Philippines a taste of Europe and opened Gerald and Icebox Gourmet along the Pasong Tamo extension in Makati. The idea was to provide bakery and frozen food items not only to the growing expat population in Manila but also to local foodies who were looking to try gourmet food products at reasonable prices.

Business was ok but could have been better for Gerald and Icebox Gourmet but it wasn’t until he approached golfing buddy Chris (last name) about setting up a website. “I told him that maybe we can operate from a warehouse and with limited cost and staff, start something,” Gerald says. “So in 2015, we started Gerald.Ph and we were doing just fine until the pandemic started and it really picked up in… we had tremendous growth.”

With its inventory practically consisting of basic essentials, Gerald.Ph had everything locals needed in a world suddenly thrown into chaos. Access to the supermarket was not easy and Gerald’s decision to keep business running was literally a lifesaver for most.

What made Gerald.Ph’s products attractive to its regular customers was that it specialized in frozen food, which is somewhat frowned upon by other Filipinos who still prefer “fresh” ingredients they can actually touch and smell.

Geoff (last name), who joined Gerald.Ph as its (position) only in January 2020, says that people’s perception of frozen food is somehow similar to how some believe that one can get cancer by eating microwaved food.

“The frozen food is the core of this company,” Geoff says. And we really need to push that branding and make it distinct from the competition. They need to see that they will get the best from our wide range of products and that they will truly get the most value for their money in terms of quality.”

The problem with some supermarket food, Geoff adds, is that most of what is marketed as “fresh” had actually been frozen and then defrosted. “It would then be displayed for a while until it starts to smell really bad,” Geoff says.

But Gerald says that with their products, the image of frozen food in the Philippines have been changing for the better especially since Gerald.Ph and its staff take every precaution to ensure that their customers get their products still frozen and on time.

The company has a dedicated cold storage that keeps its temperature at -20 degrees Celsius, which is recommended for frozen food. When an order is placed, the items are then delivered either by a truck or a rider that has insulated storage that maintain the same temperature. Minimum order is set at P2,000 and if you order before 2PM, you will get the products the following day for a fee of P90. Orders of P5,000 and up get free delivery. Orders placed before 12noon can get their products before 5PM the same day for an express delivery fee of P250.

So, it’s no surprise that Gerald.Ph is growing, not only able to maintain its strong expat market but gain new following with locals. Again, to adapt to this increasing traffic, Gerald.Ph will re-launch a sleeker website that will have all the information on its products. Customers will be able to create user accounts to keep track of their purchases and a rewards system will soon be in place. Storage and recipe suggestions will also be featured while customers will get to make ratings and comments as well.

“It’s only right that we improve our infrastructure, the backbone of the company, our inventory,” Gerald says. “For me, it’s important to know what they really want.”

Gerald.Ph has more in store as they are looking to import new range of products including pasta, meatless products, no fish products all based on mushroom, breaded scallops, burgers, etc. by the last quarter of this year.

“The Philippines gave me a lot of opportunities,” Gerald says. “We were a tiny company with very small cold storage and we learned to adapt along the way by listening to our customers. We don’t want our products to be perceived as very expensive because it’s not. We provide only the best quality gourmet food and we are doing everything we can to keep it that way.”

 

 

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