Azure Standard: How It Works and Is It Worth It
Several years ago I was reading articles on how to make my own chicken feed. I noticed that a lot of people sourced their grains from a company called Azure Standard, which is based on the west coast. Curious as to how much it would cost me to make my own layer feed, I priced organic grains on Azure website and came up with a total of around $38 for 50 pounds. Not something that was in my budget! Since I associated Azure with chicken feed, I wrote them off and didn't think anything more of the company.
Then about a year ago I started getting serious about living more simply by eliminating prepackaged foods and buying only staple products. I started researching places to purchase bulk foods. There are not many options in my area, other than Costco and Sam's Club. I mentioned this to someone at a local farm and they suggested that I look into Azure. They said there was a drop nearby. So I looked into Azure once more with a different perspective other than just bulk grains for chicken feed. To be honest, I was quite hesitant to order from them. I had a lot of questions that were not answered on their website. My biggest questions were around "how exactly did it work" and "how much was it going to cost me". Not having the answers almost put me off Azure a second time; but out of alternatives, I forged ahead and set up an account.
Having found out all the answers to my questions, I have been successfully ordering from Azure for almost a year. I realize there may be others who have the same hesitations as myself so I wanted to write this Azure Standard Guide so you can make your own informed decisions as to whether or not Azure is right for you. This post is not sponsored and is entirely my own opinion.
What is Azure Standard?
Azure Standard is a food delivery service based out of Oregon that specializes in bulk healthy foods and products. They carry just about everything a health food store would carry such as beans, rice, grains, butter, meat tomato sauce, cottage cheese, candy, yogurt. In addition they also carry items such as animal feeds, supplements, soaps, and garden supplies.
Does Azure Only Carry Bulk Items?
No. Azure carries all sizes but the best deals are usually in bulk.
What Brands Does Azure Carry?
Azure Standard carries many brands that you would find in a health food store. Some of the more popular brands are:
Food for Life
If You Care
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Once Again Nut Butter
Pacific Natural Foods
Scratch & Peck Feeds
Wilderness Family Naturals
Azure Standard also carries their own line of branded products under the names:
Azure Market Organics
Azure Market Produce
You can get a full list of all of their brands and products HERE.
Where Does Azure Standard Deliver?
Azure has truck routes that deliver to predetermined drop locations. Most of these locations get a delivery every 2 or 4 weeks. The frequency of the drop is determined by the drop coordinator. When you sign up for an account, you will need to choose a drop location.
Azure delivers to most U.S. States, each with several drop locations. They currently do not deliver to the northeastern states.
You can see a full map of where Azure currently delivers HERE.
Azure also offers ground shipping for non-perishable foods. Personally, I don’t feel this is a thrifty way to go.
What Is the Difference Between an Open Drop and a Semi-Open Drop?
Drop locations are marked as either Open or Semi-Open. Open means that you can immediately use that drop location as your own by contacting an Azure representative and setting up an account. Semi-Open just means you have to get permission from the drop coordinator to use their drop. I had to do this for my drop location. To do this, simply contact an Azure representative and they will put you in touch with the drop coordinator. The drop coordinator will let you know any rules particular to that drop and will issue you a Drop ID which is used to set up your account.
What If There Isn’t a Drop Location Near Me?
If there isn’t a drop location near you, you can opt to set up your own drop location. Drop locations have a minimum order amount to meet which can range from $550 to several thousand. The price is determined by how far the truck needs to drive. The drop location I use has to meet a minimum of $4,400 total for all orders. If you want to do this, you will likely need to get together with a group of people who will be purchasing from Azure on a regular basis to meet the minimum amount.
You can read more about starting your own Azure Drop location HERE.
Is It Free To Set Up An Azure Account?
Yes it is free! It costs nothing to set up an account. There are no annual fees or subscription fees. Azure recently started a new optional membership with additional perks and incentives, but this is entirely optional and something I am not participating in. Hopefully it stays optional as well or they will be losing me as a customer (are you listening Azure?).
Are There Any Fees At All For Azure?
Certain states have a delivery fee of 8.5% which is added to your order. In other words, if your order totals $200, there will be a delivery fee of $17 added. When price comparing, you will want to make sure you include this fee. Keep in mind that if you were purchasing all these items locally, you would need to spend money on gas driving to each store, not to mention the time it takes to shop. I find the fee perfectly reasonable.
Per the Azure website, states having a delivery fee are: AL, AR, CO, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT-east of Missoula, NC, ND, NE, NM-east, OH, OK, SD, TN, TX, UT, WI, WY.
Also, if you order less than $50 then there is a small order fee of $5.
How Do I Sign Up?
To get an account, all you need to do is go to the Azure website, choose a drop location near you, then contact an Azure representative. They will do the rest! They can even help you find a drop location if you are unsure.
I Am Ready To Order, Now What?
Once you have an account and drop location set up, you are free to shop! Add anything you want to your cart including perishable items (unless you are choosing ground shipping instead of a drop location) and then complete the checkout process.
As you go through the checkout process, you will have the option of choosing which month you want your order delivered. You can have your order shipped on the next truck or a couple months from now. The ship date is listed in a drop-down menu. Keep in mind this is the ship date, not the delivery date. For my location, the ship date is a week before the delivery date. You will not know the actual delivery date and time until you receive an email from Azure, typically 2 days before it is delivered.
Can I Change My Order?
You can always go back and edit an order up until the cut-off date. The cut-off date is typically about a week before your order ships. Azure always sends an email warning you that the cut-off date for your order is coming up. Simply go into your cart and edit. Azure recently launched a new website design and now the cart stays "open" until the cut-off date. This will allow you to go in and add and remove items from your cart. When it is time to process your order, Azure will close the cart for you and charge the card you have on file.
I Got an Email Stating My Drop Hasn't Met the Minimum Amount
I get this email every month. The email states that the cutoff time is being extended by several hours in order to help meet the minimum drop amount. The first time I saw this I panicked and thought I wasn't going to get my order at all. But my order did ship and I did receive it. I believe that Azure has the right to cancel the drop if the minimum isn't met, but because there are so many drops in our area they still deliver to us. Thankfully so! I can't say this would be the case for everyone.
Am I Guaranteed To Receive Everything I Order?
Unfortunately no. It is common for an item to go out of stock when they go to pick and pack your order. You will not know which items have shipped and which have not until after your order is on its way. After your order has been picked, Azure will send you a final invoice that itemizes what you ordered and what shipped. You are not billed for items that are out of stock. When an item isn't shipped, I usually just go in and create a new order for next month and add the missing items. Generally they come back into stock the next month.
When Do I Pick Up My Order?
After your order ships, you will receive an email telling you what shipped and what did not. This will also show you what was billed to your credit card. A couple days after your ship date, you will receive a second email that tells you what time to pick up your order. You MUST be at the drop location 15 minutes prior to the pick-up time. This oftentimes is in the middle of a week day. It is very important that you have email notifications turned ON so you get all of these notices!
What Happens If I Can’t Pick Up My Order?
It is your responsibility to make sure you, or someone you know is available to get your order when it is delivered. If you do not show up, your order could be left in the parking lot or the driver may even repack on the truck and you will be charged restocking fees.
If an emergency comes up, contact your Drop Coordinator immediately. Most are kind enough to grab your order for you – as long as it isn’t too big or there aren’t a lot of perishable items. Then you can make arrangements to get your order from the Drop Coordinator's house. Not a cool thing to do to folks so try to avoid this at all costs.
What Can I Expect At a Drop?
I can’t speak for all locations, but at my drop I show up 15 minutes early and wait in the drop parking lot along with other Azure customers. The delivery truck then pulls in and everyone jumps out and waits by the rear of the truck. The driver will move all drop items to the doors and everyone starts unloading boxes and putting them in piles according to the name on the label (every item has a label with a name and drop location). Everyone helps unload, including little kids!
Once all items are unloaded, you can then count the number of boxes you have and compare that with the driver’s manifest to make sure you got them all. Then you just pack up and leave. The whole drop takes about 20-30 minutes.
What If I am Missing an Item?
If you get home and find you are missing an item, you can contact an Azure representative.
Does Azure Have Sales?
Yes! Azure publishes a sales magazine that you can add to your order for free. This will detail the items that will be on sale for the next two months. Personally, I save a tree and just look online for sale items.
HERE is a link to view all items including sale items.
In addition, Azure also offers deals on overstock items or bargain-bin items. Bargain-bin items are usually items that are expiring or items where the box or bag has been damaged. You can get some great deals this way.
The Big Question: Is Azure Worth It?
In my opinion, yes. Azure is excellent for purchasing bulk food items and supplies as long as you know your prices (I do not think they are cost effective for purchasing chicken feed grains, other than starter feed, but that is up to you and your budget) . Like any grocery store, there are items that are cheaper than you can get anywhere else and then there are items that are not such a great deal. What I did, and what I recommend that you do is create a spreadsheet and write down all items you purchase. Price compare by breaking down the item into a base unit. This may seem a bit anal but this is the only way you will understand prices and what to buy where. Grocery stores, including Azure, all offset their great deals with other popular items priced higher than other stores. They assume you are going to use them as a one stop shop. Below is an example of part of a spreadsheet I created to price compare:
What I Order From Azure
I found Azure has the best deals when buying in bulk. In particular, I found their brand of staple items to be not only the cheapest option, but really good quality. Items I frequently order are:
Gluten Free Oats
Pink Sea Salt
Dr. Bronner’s soap
Starter chick feed
Below is a sample order that I placed last month. You can also see where my salt didn’t ship. I just added that to the next order.
Items That Are Cheaper Elsewhere
I live in an area of chain grocery stores, Walmarts, and Targets. Although I despise having to patronize these places, my budget really doesn’t allow me to take a morally superior stance by avoiding them. Here are the items I found cheaper to purchase at these places:
Canned tomatoes (when squirrels eat all your garden tomatoes)
Jasmine and basmati rice (also used to make gluten free flour)
Detergent (my homemade detergents failed miserably)
Vinegar (white and cider)
Pork and turkey
Items I Purchase Locally
I am in the process of becoming as self-sustainable as I can. Until I reach that point, here are the items I purchase locally:
Beef (from a grass-fed beef farm)
Adult animal feed (from a non-gmo feed mill)
Azure Standard is an amazing company with fantastic customer service. You can really get a lot of great deals, you just need to be aware of your prices and know that the biggest deals will be in buying in bulk. In another article, I will show how I store my bulk food supplies.
If you have any questions or comments about Azure, feel free to leave them below!