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MARTIN SLOANE | Supermarket Shopper Get hard-to-find products by visiting Web site



Published: Mon, March 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



I received an e-mail note from Matina Spires, of Aiken, S.C. "Can you please help me locate a product? I have medical problems that prevent me from eating most foods. One of the foods I can eat is Kraft Savory Chicken Flavored Noodles & amp; Sauce. I was able to find it at several stores until two months ago, but they have all discontinued it. What can I do?"

I called Kraft, and a representative told me this variety of noodles and sauce was still being made, but was in limited distribution. The representative recommended that I try the Web site of Netgrocer.

Lifesaver

Founded in 1995, Netgrocer was the first and is still the only online grocer serving shoppers nationwide. I went online to the Web site: www.netgrocer.com, where I found the Kraft product, and I sent Matina the news. She replied: "You have probably saved my life. I just ordered 60 boxes of the Kraft Noodles and Sauce from Netgrocer. When I eventually get my kidney transplant, I will name it Martin. Thank you!"

Netgrocer serves shoppers nationwide from its distribution center in North Brunswick, N.J. Each day, 10,000 shoppers visit the Netgrocer Web site where they find more than 20,000 non-perishable grocery products. They include many hard-to-find items from Kraft, Nabisco, Heinz, Beechnut Baby Foods, Campbell's soups, Motts, Mead-Johnson Nutritionals, Johnson & amp; Johnson Women's Health Products and dozens of other companies. Netgrocer also carries natural and organic foods as well as broad offerings of ethnic and specialty foods such as kosher, Hispanic, Cajun and Southern.

However, the company doesn't carry refrigerated or frozen foods or very heavy or bulky items like 8-pack paper towels.

Best customers

Lisa Kent, president of NeXpansion, the parent company of Netgrocer, says their largest customer group is busy families looking for convenience and saving time. Many customers are special-foods-needs customers like Spires. There are also customers who order, because they cannot get out to a supermarket. Regular customers typically order about $70, and 65 percent of orders come from repeat customers.

Unfortunately, Netgrocer does not accept manufacturer coupons, but it does have a customer loyalty program. Cart Club Members can enjoy savings of 5 percent to 20 percent off as many as a dozen of the most expensive items in an order and the opportunity to save 50 percent on shipping.

The Netgrocer Web site is easy to use. There is an alphabetical store directory and an excellent search system. Once you register with Netgrocer, you can select items, leave the site and your selected items will be there when you return to complete your order. You can speed up your shopping by creating one or more shopping lists of frequently purchased items. As you shop around the Netgrocer site, you will see a running total for your purchases at the bottom of your screen. When you check out, review your shopping cart carefully. I found I had inadvertently selected more than one for several items.

Netgrocer uses Federal Express Super Saver delivery service (that means you can't deliver to P.O. boxes, Alaska or Hawaii). If you wish, FedEx will drop the package at your doorstep so long as the driver feels it is safe. Delivery charges depend on the value of your order and where you are located. For example, the shipping cost is $7.99 for orders of $50 to $74.99 delivered east of the Mississippi and $13.99 west of the Mississippi. Netgrocer promises delivery within three to four days.

When you need groceries and can't shop the store, this service may work for you. If you visit and order from www.netgrocer.com, please let me know about your experience. Write to me, Martin Sloane, The Supermarket Shopper, in care of The Vindicator.

United Feature Syndicate




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