Interview American Groceries Belgium
By Brooke Peterson, ACB Community Manager
This February we checked back in with ACB Sponsor American Groceries Belgium to see how things have changed since their business launch in the Fall of 2020.
I am finding it hard to concentrate right now, because I keep thinking about the Pop Tarts in my kitchen. I have just returned from my interview with ACB Partner American Groceries Belgium (AGB) owner Kristen Crosson - and have brought back some wonderful goodies. We asked Kristen for an update on how things are going for her business, and what is next.
AGB launched its business in October 2020, and you became an ACB partner shortly after. We spoke with you in November 2020 when things were just getting started for you, so what has happened since your launch?
The biggest change is that we have expanded in so many ways. We started out with just click and collect offering our items at different pick-up locations around Brussels. Starting in the middle of a pandemic meant that people really wanted to have everything delivered, so we quickly started delivery options in Belgium. We have now expanded our delivery to eight additional countries in Europe including France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Portugal and Spain. In addition to expanding our geographical reach, we have tripled our selection of items - which we hope offers something for everyone.
How do you decide what items to add? How do you know what Americans are missing and craving while abroad?
We actually decide completely through customer requests, and sometimes we are surprised by what people want . With a big network of wholesalers we are usually able to find what people are looking for, so it is really helpful that we have customers that let us know what they would like us to carry. We also can see what is popular with our customers and make sure to have plenty on hand. Items such as mac & cheese, Goldfish, peanut butter, canned pumpkin, and pickles tend to be our best sellers.
What are the most surprising and weirdest things that customers have asked you for?
One thing that surprised us was that originally we were geared more to children with things such as kids’ cereals, but we quickly got a lot of requests for “adult” cereals like plain Cheerios, Grape Nuts and oatmeal. We realized that it is the adults living abroad that miss their favorite things just as much as the kids, if not more.
In terms of odd things people have requested, we were surprised by the number of people asking for spray cheese, or the fake cheese that comes in a can. In a country with arguably some of the best cheese in the world, why did people want cheese in a spray can? Even stranger is that these requests came mostly from non-Americans.
I understand you offer in-store shopping. Looking around your store right now, it is really fun to see all of these American food favorites on the shelves. Tell us more about that.
Sometimes it is just more fun to shop in person, so we do offer shop by appointment on Saturdays along with our click and collect. This allows people to come into the store in a safe way, following all COVID safety guidelines. We often have people come with their children, which is really cute. I love listening to adults explaining what these American foods are to their kids and how they grew up loving these foods. It is a little trip down memory lane for them and me. We also have a lounge with sofa, TV, and vintage Fisher Price toys for the kids to entertain themselves while their parents shop.
We have also done some great events at the Wavre location, such as a Halloween craft event this past year. The kids get to have fun making crafts while the adults get to shop in person and socialize with other parents. It was a really fun event and we are planning to do another one for Easter.
So where to next? What are your plans moving forward?
We will continue to add to our selection and countries that we can deliver to. In addition, we are hoping to create more specialized packages that can be ordered as gifts, such as for holidays or birthday parties. It can be frustrating when well meaning grandparents send over treats and then you are stuck with a tax to pay in order to get the package. A great alternative is to have relatives order through AGB - and the gift pack is usually delivered the next business day in Belgium and without the surprise taxes attached.
We would like to thank American Groceries Belgium for their ongoing support of the club, and of course for the pickles, Goldfish and Pop Tarts.
Brooke Peterson is the ACB Community Manager
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