The internet is revolutionising retail – not least the way we buy groceries. We check out the services of specialist online grocers across the UAE
Online grocers in the UAE: 11 brands to know
No more crowded checkout lines. No screaming children to contend with. No need to race home to get the ice-cream into the freezer before it melts. The day has finally come: you can now buy all your groceries in the UAE without setting foot into a store.
Online grocery shopping is a trend that’s gaining traction across the world, and the UAE is no exception. A Nielsen Global E-Commerce and The New Retail report from 2015 polled 30,000 respondents from 60 countries and found that more than a quarter of them ordered their groceries online, and more than half were willing to do so in the future.
And why not, right? There’s something to be said for ordering your groceries from home, on a convenient app or website, and having them delivered straight to your doorstep.
For busy working parents, traditional grocery shopping presents a time conundrum. For those who live some distance from their favourite grocer, replenishing the pantry can often become a transportation issue. And for those who just dislike the chore, having one less errand to run often can’t come soon enough. “Grocery shopping is repetitive and highly inefficient,” says Amira Rashad, co-founder of grocery app Bulkwhiz. “I don’t know many mums or dads who enjoy dragging the kids to the supermarket, fighting for a parking spot, standing in long lines or carrying heavy items home, only to realise they have forgotten one or two key things every single week. There has to be a better way.”
Already, chains like Carrefour and Lulu offer online services, and we have often ordered from both: their refrigerated trucks ensure that items like milk, eggs, cheese and ice-cream arrive in good shape, and their delivery men drop large items like detergent and water bottles right to your kitchen. For those who haven’t yet experienced the online grocery option, we’ve done the hard work for you, scouring the offerings in UAE, to find the best ways to order your food from the comfort of your own home.
This fresh fruit delivery service was set up by four women in Dubai, three of them mothers. The company offers a subscription service, where you can sign up for a scheduled fruit delivery that can be cancelled or postponed at any time. The discovery box, which costs Dh125, contains 15 to 20 varieties of fruits, which provides 25 servings. The mangoes, pineapples and melons arrive cut up, the pomegranate shucked and blueberries and cherries washed and ready to eat. Everything is fresh and in season, and a lone fig in the box made for a nice surprise. You can trial a box for Dh100 and then decide if you want to subscribe. Customers receive emails ahead of the delivery, which should arrive within 24 hours. Plus, you can check on the website to see what your box will contain; the list is updated regularly.
The Fruit Box
Set up in 2014 by Linda Lu and her husband, the business began as an office fruit delivery service but also became well-loved by individuals at home. “My husband was fed-up with standing around watching me spend hours in various fruit and vegetable supermarket sections during our weekly shopping, so he suggested if I thought I was such an expert in fruits, why not try something in that space,” says Lu. The Dh95 fruit snack box weighs six kilograms and contains 40 servings of 15 fruits that are fresh, seasonal and popular. The delivery we tried came with tropical lychees, rambutans and loganberries, which were a welcome surprise. Larger box options are also available. The fruits that you receive can be substituted when feedback is sent, and a delivery arrives at your door in less than 24 hours after an order has been placed. You can book your box either online, via email or on the phone. Delivery is free in Dubai, but costs Dh20 to other emirates.
If organic is what you’re after, FarmBox is a good choice for you. Set up last year by three Frenchmen in Dubai, the company offers a subscription-based service for home delivery of organic fruit, vegetables and eggs. The products are two-fold: either mostly sourced from Europe, or you can opt for organic local produce. Ordering with FarmBox is easy, an online chat option on their website – which also offers healthy recipes – answers any queries immediately, and they’re quick to reach out on Facebook and Instagram as well. It’s as simple as choosing the type of box you want, its size, where you want the produce from, and then specifying which day and time you’d like it delivered, and how frequently, if you opt to subscribe. Payment is all taken care of online and if you live in a flat, you’ll come home to find your box waiting outside your door. Everything arrives chilled and packaged in brown paper bags to ensure freshness, and the boxes can be collected for recycling. Choose from a mix of fruits and veggies for Dh129, vegetables only for Dh149, or a fruit box for Dh119 . The contents of each box are posted on the website and updated regularly. Delivery is free five days a week, either in the morning or in the afternoon, across the UAE, and you’ll receive your box a day after placing your order. You also have the option to pause your subscription.
Download the app on your phone and marvel at how quickly you can get your groceries. The app tells you where your nearest participating grocer is – so for example the Al Maya supermarket if you’re living on Reem Island or a nearby Zoom anywhere in Dubai – and allows you to choose from a variety of products. Everything from tender chicken breasts to birthday candles to hand soap, at your doorstep in 45 minutes. You can pay cash on delivery or use your card. If you ordered an item that’s not in stock, the app will send you a notification and ask you if you’d like a replacement item instead. Well worth a look.
This service allows you to browse fruit, vegetables, meats, chicken and seafood, add the items to your cart and schedule delivery. If you have no cash on hand to pay, they will send you an online pay port to complete the transaction. Everything is fresh, they don’t stock frozen meats or seafood, and they had the best avocados and sweet potatoes. All their fresh produce is organic. If your order is over Dh100, delivery is free, otherwise just add Dh20.
The distinctive navy colour of a Kibsons International box has become a regular sight outside homes in Dubai. Kibsons allows you to pick and choose every type of fruit and vegetable possible, and its origins, from the website.
You can also shop for meat, chicken and fish, all of which arrived portioned and frozen in plastic containers. Raw nuts, and healthy drinks and dairy options, are also available online. Even if you place an order late at night, you can have it scheduled to be delivered the next morning at no extra charge. The fruit and vegetables are always fresh and of excellent quality, and prices are no higher than what you’d find at your average grocery store.
Payment can be made online, or via card reader or cash on delivery. Kibsons is a service you can quickly become addicted to.
For a minimum spend of Dh150, you can order a variety of fresh fish as late at 6pm, and it’ll be delivered the next day.
Set up earlier this year by Mark and Jacky Allan and their son George, Fishbox flies in fresh seafood from the UK and other parts of the world – tuna from the Maldives, sea bass from Turkey, hamachi from Japan – and delivers it straight to your doorstep.
“There was a huge gap in the market, not only to supply fresh fish but to supply the fresh fish that we missed from home,” explains George Allan.
Ordering on the website couldn’t be easier. Just choose your fish: whole, portioned or filleted. Add it to your cart and provide your delivery details. You’ll be emailed a confirmation link and once you click it, your order will be on its way, delivered within 24 hours, six days a week.
The fish arrives fresh, in vacuum sealed bags. You can cook it immediately, or choose to freeze it. We ordered fresh salmon portions for Dh99, two sea bass fillets for Dh56.50, a lemon sole fillet for Dh63.50, 200 grams of smoked salmon for Dh36 and 200 grams of smoked salmon gravadlax also for Dh36. Payment is made on delivery, either through a card reader or with cash.
Although focussed on Dubai until now, there are plans to expand the service in the coming months.
Take a little bit of time to set up your account and your shopping preferences on the BulkWhiz mobile app, and you’ll never have to do it agai.
Co-founded by Amira Rashad, a fan of the famous American bulk grocery retailer Costco, BulkWhiz addresses the recurring patterns of grocery purchases by allowing you to set up scheduled deliveries of bulk items.
The items will arrive every two weeks, delivered by the person you’ve become accustomed to.
For items like beverages, household cleaners, laundry detergents and diapers, the service is convenient and makes sense. Every day, new products are being added.
The web mobile app is currently released as a beta version in Dubai BulkWhiz is currently beta in Dubai and will be released across the UAE next month.
(Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah)
The variety of fish available from Arabind is mind-boggling; there were types we hadn’t even heard of, and they also offer meat and chicken.
Amina Shabida, from India, set up Arabind in 2013 out of need – she could never find fresh fish when she wanted it, at an affordable price. Customers can now browse the site and add the products to their shopping cart, then schedule a time for delivery. Everything arrives fresh and well packaged, and there is an option to buy frozen and defrosted fish as well. Free delivery is offered across Dubai as well as in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Popular items include salmon fillet and prawns, as well as local fish. However, this being said, the fish is flown in from all over the world.
One thing we especially liked is that you can specify how you’d like our fish, meat or chicken cut or cleaned, so it arrives ready for cooking. There’s even an option to order meats skewered and marinated, ready for a barbecue.
(Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain)
This South African butcher has become a household name in Abu Dhabi, and its popularity is not lost on its Dubai customers either.
This summer, Springbok launched an app, so deliveries can now be placed online or via smartphone.
This premium butchery delivers fresh, clean meats – all of which are free of hormones, additives, gluten, antibiotics, MSG and fillers – to clients across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and also provide a catering service.
They specialise in barbecues, spits and smoked meats, but alternatively, you can just order one of their packages. Their hamburger patties are great and the quality of their steaks demanded our respect too.
Try their Mid-Week Madness pack for Dh295, which includes 1kg of sirloin steaks, 1kg of gourmet beef burgers, 1kg of meatballs, 1kg of marinated lamb skewers and 1kg of chicken thighs.
Best of all, you’re not limited to just their packages, you can add any item you like to your order, and it will arrive fresh at your door the following day.
My Quality and Convenience
If you’re a fan of Italian products, check this online grocer out. They have fresh organic vegetable packages, but their selling point is their pastas and sauces. Their weekly fruit and vegetable box is priced at Dh150 and consists of 11kg of produce. They stock a variety of Italian brands and offer free delivery across Dubai. We stocked up on rare varieties of Brailla pasta and Mutti tomato sauces. Our order arrived with some fresh basil to boot: a perfect Italian meal in the making.