Selling fancy grocery bags was supposed to be a side project. Now, with orders streaming in from hundreds of stores, Jen and Farzan Dehmoubed are set to make millions selling a reusable bag to shoppers.
The Carlsbad couple, both 39, are co-founders of Lotus Trolley Bag, a company that makes a popular set of four heavy-duty grocery sacks that hang like accordion files in a shopping cart. Before and after use, they can be folded up into a 2-pound over-the-shoulder carrier that resembles a yoga mat. The couple designed the shopping bags with pockets for things like eggs and wine, and a cooler bag for frozen items.
Founded just last year, the product is going gangbusters, selling in 500 stores, including retailers such as Ralphs, Vons, Jimbos and Albertsons. This is their first venture, and the couple is still reeling from success. After designing the bags, they placed an order for 5,000 units, hoping to sell that many in three months. Instead, the bags sold out in two weeks.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Farzan.
The ban on plastic bags in California fueled the company’s success, they said, helping to put reusable bags on the minds of consumers.
“We found many people were just getting thicker and bulkier bags that would also be forgotten at home,” Farzan said. “That’s when we decided we needed a system so people remembered their bags.”
Profitable from the very start, the company will surpass $1.2 million in sales during 2018, selling over 30,000 units. Now, the company has expanded to offer an extra big set to fit the jumbo-sized carts in Costco and Sam’s Club. They also added on resusable produce bags. With the new products and some expanding territory, Lotus Trolley Bags expects to rake in $3 million to $5 million in sales next year, rolling out to 1,500 stores worldwide.
Farzan said these bags also take advantage of a new trend in grocery stores: cashierless shopping. Popularized by Amazon Go, grocery stores nationwide are debuting a new technology called “Scan, Bag, and Go.” These stores have an option for shoppers to pick up a handheld scanning device when they walk in. As they shop, customers scan barcodes of items before placing them in their cart. When done shopping, they go straight to a cashierless kiosk to pay and leave. The experience allows shoppers to keep a running tab of their bill, and skip the process of unloading carts at checkout.
Jen said the Lotus Trolley Bag makes this high-tech shopping experience even more convenient.
“This bypasses the need to unload your grocery cart, because you’ve been organizing items into your bag as you shop,” Jen said.
Grocery and retail expert Burt Flickinger III said he stumbled across the Lotus Trolley Bag the last time he did business in San Diego and was impressed by the concept.
“The shoppers love them, the stores love them; they’re well done,” Flickinger said, adding that the product fills a critical need of making grocery shopping as convenient as possible. He places a high value on buying food in supermarkets rather than restaurants — especially for budget-conscious families.
“In the last couple of quarters, prices at restaurants have gotten out of control,” Flickinger said. “Shopping at grocery stores can cut a family’s total food spend by 25 to 30 percent.”
The Lotus Trolley Bag sells for $29.99 in stores or $34.95 online. They’re available on the company’s website, Amazon and supermarkets throughout San Diego.
Besides the two founders, Lotus Trolley Bag has hired five additional staffers and plans to hire two more before the year’s end.