- Uber and Instacart recently announced expansions into the convenience store delivery space.
- It’s the latest move in the online grocery market, where sales will surpass $100 billion in 2021.
- Here are 13 companies that are also trying to get a slice of the grocery-delivery market.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The pandemic might be easing in the US, but competition between companies that deliver groceries and other essentials keeps heating up.
Earlier this month, Uber and Gopuff, which have been pushing deeper into grocery delivery, said they struck an exclusive partnership to offer GoPuff’s inventory of chips, over-the-counter medicines, and other items for sale through
. The partnership will kick off in 95 cities in June, and the companies plan to expand it to the entire US by summer’s end.
The partnership will use Gopuff’s network of microfulfillment centers around the country to fill orders placed through Uber Eats, the companies said. That model separates GoPuff from Instacart, which relies on filling orders directly from shelves at retailers.
“With this partnership, we are able to leapfrog the competition in using Gopuff’s network of microfulfillment centers to instantly meet consumer demand for thousands of products—and I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities ahead,” Raj Beri, Uber’s head of grocery and new verticals delivery, said in a statement announcing the partnership.
Instacart remains a dominant player in the online-grocery-delivery space, which is projected to reach more than $100 billion in sales in the US in 2021. Instacart has also pushed into the convenience store delivery space. It recently announced an expansion of its 30-minute delivery deal with 7-Eleven to 6,000 locations.
But with the pandemic accelerating e-commerce food purchases, Instacart is not alone in attempting to take advantage of the industry’s growth. The San Francisco-based giant, rumored to be launching an initial public offering later this year, faces new challengers in the highly fragmented sector. Besides Uber and Gopuff, others include DoorDash, Weee, and a variety of local delivery startups like Fridge No More and Farmstead.
At the same time, many first-time online-grocery buyers are expected to go from “trial to habit” in 2021, according to a February eMarketer report.
“Many low-propensity buyers will return to their pre-pandemic purchase behaviors once the threat is sufficiently mitigated through vaccines,” Andrew Lipsman, an eMarketer analyst at Insider Intelligence, said. “Other consumers, now acclimated to the process of buying groceries online, will do so on an occasional basis. And many who developed a regular habit around buying groceries online will carry the behavior forward.”
Insider put together a list of companies expanding or launching online grocery operations in the US to better compete with Instacart. Here are 13 brands trying to cement their place in the booming US grocery-delivery market.
Total funding: $14.5 million
Notable investors: Y Combinator, Resolute Ventures, Aidenlair Capital.
CEO: Pradeep Elankumaran
Year founded: 2016
Cofounders Pradeep Elankumaran and Kevin Li launched Farmstead to deliver essential groceries to shoppers clustered in neighborhoods within a 50-mile radius. Farmstead delivers multiple grocery orders from one delivery driver, which allows the startup to offer free same-day delivery to customers who spend $35 or more. The platform also offers on-demand delivery within an hour for a $5 fee.
Unlike Instacart, Farmstead does not deliver from retail partners. Farmstead keeps overhead costs at bay by delivering groceries from “dark” or ghost warehouses, similar to how GoPuff operates. Farmstead sources its goods directly from local farm distributors, as well as distributors of national brands. From time to time, Farmstead sources directly from farmers.
Farmstead additionally uses machine learning to ensure the availability of the most sought-after grocery products — from laundry detergent to oat milk. This ensures that consumers are never offered unacceptable replacements or refunds when items are out of stock, Elankumaran, a former Yahoo and Lyft software engineer, told Insider.
The Burlingame, California-based Farmstead operates in the Bay Area, as well as in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Farmstead plans to expand to eight new markets this year, including Nashville, Tennessee, and Miami.
Total funding: $120,000 as of September 30
Notable investors: Amazon Alexa Fund
CEO: Payman Nejati
Year founded: 2016
Anycart got a funding boost from the Amazon Alexa Fund, an accelerator for services that can be integrated into Amazon’s Alexa voice technology. It started with an app for users to post cooking videos, then used some of them to create recipes that customers could use to fill their online grocery carts while shopping, according to GeekWire.
Today, Anycart users can order groceries from retailers like Amazon Prime Now, Whole Foods Market, and Albertsons. The service touts the fact that it doesn’t charge consumers a fee and that its prices are the same as what customers would pay if they were shopping in store. Instead, it relies on an affiliate or referral fee paid by retailers. Those who make the deliveries are either contract workers or employed directly by the grocers Anycart works with, according to its website.
Total funding: $2.43 billion as of March 23
Notable investors: SoftBank Vision Fund 1, Baillie Gifford, Luxor Capital
CEO: Rafael Ilishayev
Year founded: 2013
A common GoPuff order includes ice cream, Tylenol, paper towels, and other things that you would otherwise buy at the last minute at a convenience store. The company calls itself an “instant needs platform.”
Unlike Instacart, GoPuff sells food, beverages, and other household essentials through its own fulfillment centers around the US. That costs more than picking orders off store shelves, but it gives GoPuff more control over the products customers order, which allows it to deliver quicker. GoPuff orders, delivered by contract or gig workers, take between 20 and 40 minutes to arrive, according to the company.
That model earned it $1.15 billion in fresh funding in March, bringing its total valuation to $8.9 billion. Some of that money will go toward expanding the products it can deliver, GoPuff executives said in a statement. Its recent additions include mystery boxes, such as a selection of snacks from women-owned brands, as well as a wider variety of baby-care items.
“Our technology platform and infrastructure enable us to expand GoPuff’s offerings while bringing more products, new categories, and experiences to customers,” co-CEO and cofounder Yakir Gola said at the time of the fundraise.
Home Delivery Service
Total funding: $30 million as of May
Notable investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Toyota
CEO: Louis Borders
Year founded: 2012
Louis Borders isn’t new to the retail world: He founded a chain bookstore that carried his last name before it shuttered its stores in 2011. He’s also known for Webvan, a delivery service that went bust in the dot-com crash nearly two decades ago. Now he’s giving grocery delivery another go.
The centerpiece of Home Delivery Service is RoboFS, an automated fulfillment system that sorts grocery orders into totes that can then be delivered to customers, Borders told Insider in May. According to Borders, the system costs much less to operate than human-powered warehouses and has a lower error rate than humans. Borders said last year that he planned to open a warehouse in the Bay Area in 2021.
Borders, who spoke with Insider at the beginning of the pandemic, pointed to ballooning wait times for Instacart and Amazon grocery orders as evidence that demand for grocery delivery had arrived, but he said the infrastructure to meet it was still lacking.
“There’s proof of the demand, but the high quality of fulfillment is not there,” Borders said.
Total funding: $415 million
Notable investors: Blackstone, Lightspeed Venture Partners
CEO: Larry Liu
Year founded: 2015
Weee focuses on groceries that appeal to Asian American and Hispanic consumers. That niche audience earned it $315 million in Series D funding last month in a round led by DST Global. Weee plans to use part of its most recent funding to expand beyond its base of cities on the East and West coasts, as well as in Texas.
Founder Larry Liu told Grocery Dive in the fall that the delivery service used WeChat to build its following and advertise in the US’s Asian American communities. It’s one of several startups, alongside Chowbus and Umamicart, that deliver Asian groceries to customers in the US.
Total funding: $337.3 million as of March 29
Notable investors: S2G Ventures, Tao Capital Partners
CEO: Bentley Hall
Year founded: 2011
San Francisco’s Good Eggs raised $100 million in funding in February, money that it plans to use to expand into markets such as Los Angeles. The startup previously had a broader US presence, including in cities like Los Angeles and New Orleans. It pulled back from those cities in 2015, with then-CEO Rob Spiro saying the company “was growing too quickly … before fully figuring out the challenges of building an entirely new food supply chain.”
Good Eggs manages its own product selection, stocking everything from wine to local produce. Its goal is to capture an increasingly large portion of customers’ monthly grocery spending, CEO Bentley Hall told Insider in February. It’s one of several grocery marketplaces, including Imperfect Produce and Thrive Market, that do grocery delivery and are expanding their offerings beyond an initial niche.
Fridge No More
Total funding: $16.9 million
Notable investors: Insight Partners
CEO: Pavel Danilov
Year founded: 2020
Brooklyn’s Fridge No More just serves a few neighborhoods in the New York City borough at the moment with its 15-minute grocery-delivery service. Employees zip in and out of the startup’s stores with scooters, and the shelf layout is optimized to make sure picking orders doesn’t take any longer than necessary.
But founders Anton Gladkoborodov and Pavel Danilov told Insider in March that they had big plans for expansion, especially after securing a $15 million Series A round led by the private-equity firm Insight Partners. The pair told Insider they planned to expand their “ultrafast” delivery model to the rest of New York, including Manhattan, and were interested in taking it to other cities and areas with lower population densities, such as suburbs.
The model takes more investment than Instacart’s, since the 15-minute delivery guarantee requires that Fridge No More own its inventory and keep full-time employees on tap to jump on orders as they come in. But Gladkoborodov and Danilov say it’s worth it. “Our core idea is instant grocery delivery,” Danilov said.
Total funding: Not disclosed
CEO: Adit Gupta
Year founded: 2020
Lula operates in the Philadelphia area and delivers orders from local convenience stores. Founders Adit Gupta and Tom Falzani got the idea during the pandemic when Gupta’s family couldn’t find a suitable delivery service for their convenience store.
The foodtech publication Hngry compared the startup to Instacart in its early days, when the startup didn’t officially partner with retailers but sent its delivery workers to purchase items from stores. Gupta and Falzani told Hngry they planned to expand the service with a merchant platform and a store of their own that would stock mostly upstart brands. The startup uses a subscription model and says it fills most of its orders in less than 30 minutes.
Total funding: Not disclosed.
Notable investor: But the company says Vizio founder William Wang is an investor.
CEO: Jay Zhao
Year founded: 2020
The Orange County entrepreneur and restaurant owner Jay Zhao cofounded Sonic Plus last year during the onset of the pandemic. Sonic Plus offers same-day and next-day delivery of consumer goods and groceries to customers living in Orange and Los Angeles counties in California.
Instead of sending gig “shoppers” to retailers to fetch groceries for customers, Sonic Plus works directly with local farmers and nationwide food distributors like Performance Food Group, US Foods, and the Los Angeles produce supplier YW Produce.
The company plans to launch on-demand delivery later this year, according to Zhao, who co-owns Gui BBQ Restaurant & Bar in Irvine, California. The company charges a flat $5 for orders under $35.
Zhao told Insider via email that he planned to expand the grocery-delivery service to the Bay Area and all of Southern California later this year.
Total funding: Not disclosed, but it raised $1.27 million in March
Founders: Hanish Pahwa and Keval Raj
Year founded: 2017
Notable investors: The former Peapod executives John Furton and Mike Brennan, Home Chef CEO Pat Vihtelic, Foxtrot Senior Vice President Scott Holloway
Chicago’s Quicklly focuses on Indian and other South Asian groceries. While founders Hanish Pahwa and Keval Raj haven’t said much publicly about the company or their plans, a pre-seed funding round worth $1.27 million that closed in March drew backing from current and former executives from Peapod, Home Chef, and Foxtrot.
With the new funding, Quicklly said it would look to expand nationwide beyond its starting points in Chicago and the Bay Area. New York and northern New Jersey are targets “in the coming months,” according to the statement.
In addition to groceries, Quicklly delivers prepared meals and meal kits. It also works with local businesses to provide delivery.
Year founded: 2007
For years, Amazon Fresh struggled to gain traction. Then Amazon’s 2017 purchase of Whole Foods appeared to be a sign that the company had moved on to other ways of breaking into the grocery space.
But the pandemic caused demand for grocery delivery to surge, which lifted Amazon Fresh’s fortunes in same-day grocery with it. It also helped that Amazon started opening physical grocery stores bearing the name that cater to a more middle-income consumer than Whole Foods does. Already, Amazon has opened almost a dozen Amazon Fresh stores, and Bloomberg reported in March that it was planning at least 28 more.
Those stores are bolstering Amazon Fresh’s two-hour delivery offering, Morgan Stanley wrote Wednesday, especially when they’re in densely populated areas and can function as fulfillment centers for online orders.
CEO: Tony Xu
Year founded: 2013
DoorDash, which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange last year, is known for its restaurant-delivery business. But over the past few years, DoorDash has been expanding its services to include delivery from convenience stores, supermarkets, and retailers.
Lately, it’s been building its on-demand grocery services to compete with apps like Instacart, while also attempting to differentiate itself from restaurant-delivery companies like Grubhub and Uber Eats.
DoorDash delivers from more than 1,800 stores through partnerships with Wegmans, Walmart, Casey’s, 7-Eleven, Circle K, Wawa, CVS, Smart & Final, Meijer, Fresh Thyme, and Hy-Vee.
Additionally, DoorDash has created its own dark-warehouse division dubbed DashMart. These distribution hubs are in about 25 cities and allow the company to sell and deliver basic groceries such as ice cream, potato chips, cough medicine, and dog food.
Tuesday’s agreement with GoPuff isn’t the first time Uber Eats added another grocery delivery service’s offerings to its platform.
In the summer, Uber, the parent company of Uber Eats, integrated the Chilean grocery startup Cornershop into its platform to allow for grocery orders placed on Uber and Uber Eats. Uber has a majority stake in Cornershop. The rollout started in select cities in Latin America but has since expanded to on-demand grocery delivery in the US and Canada.
Uber Eats now delivers in the following markets: Dallas; Houston; Austin, Texas; Miami; Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville, Florida; New York; Washington, DC; Jersey City, New Jersey; Toronto; and Montreal.
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