Alongside the trends too much greater digitalisation, reduced contact through more self-checkouts, automation and a more cashless society, the ultra-fast start-ups could be one of the enduring legacies of the Covid-19 era impacting retail in a future post-pandemic.
This report does not deal with the online grocery battle between Amazon and Walmart in the US, as the publisher has written elsewhere extensively on this. This analysis is also not about Kroger and Ocado’s out of town sheds versus Ahold and in-store mini fulfilment centres, or where click & collect versus home delivery is going in the US. The sector will develop strongly on the back of the Covid push and all these players will benefit from a rising tide lifting all boats.
Rather this report deals with the ultra-fast delivery startups, attracting record levels of investment, shoppers and interest. The pandemic has boosted a new dynamic in online grocery, reflected in the rise of GoPuff and its various clones. These players are first and foremost about serving the immediate shopper need and trip mission, that used to be the distressed convenience shop in the analogue world. Of course, the trailblazers for rushed deliveries were the restaurant and take away meal delivery companies (GrubHub, Just Eat etc). Instacart and the various Instacart clones (basically a third party pick and delivery service) had an outstanding year, as had the grocery divisions of Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Everli and Glovo. But these players are now being disrupted by a new breed of online grocery players which are all about speed and convenience, the rapid convenience store delivery apps such as GoPuff, Getir, Gorillas, Fridge No More and many others. The ultra-rapid players have their own mini dark stores/depots in urban catchments and cut out the retailers for sourcing products. The hyperlocal nature of their business model enables them to pick for and reach customers’ households within 10-15 minutes, in many cases being quicker than the shopper going to the store themselves. In the right circumstances such as a distressed shop late at night for OTC products, essential ingredients or the like this can be a very attractive offer.
While there are many unanswered questions, mainly around profitability, for many shopping missions especially in the bigger cities this is probably the future of delivery, after all, no one wants slower deliveries and once the infrastructure is in place on the front and back end (the logistics set up and the riders) a lot of other services can ride on this too. Other big unanswered questions apart from costs/profitability are whether there are scale benefits, as 10 minutes implies that this is a point to point play in logistics. One simply cannot group trips into the catchment, if the rider has to be on the individual shopper’s front door with a 10-minute window. (Perhaps it should be noted that GoPuff works with a longer delivery window, which seems to make a lot more sense economically, though reaching profitability is still challenging). In certain aspects, the rise of these new app players is a big threat to click and collect - but definitely for the convenience store sector, which so far had been shielded from the online grocery channel shift. We’d advise convenience store operators to have a long hard look at this and perhaps to launch their own service or partner up with an external service provider - but this would have to happen on a hyper local level and is very cost-prohibitive.
A clear advantage the ultra-rapid players have is that the ranges are often very tight (around 2,000 SKUs) and not very deep, so storage space is minimised, which also means shorter picking distances. Moreover, the lower average basket value (though a clear drawback) also means more deliveries per hour are potentially possible. The publisher still can’t see more than 3 deliveries per hour achieved though if driving times to and from depot have to be calculated in, as well as the picking times. Most players are calculating an average basket size of between $30-50. The convenience of the delivery is great for conversion though and will probably generate more repeat buys than standard online grocery deliveries too.
Now is the time to look ahead, it seems clear that the trend has swung back to more local and faster fulfilment (i.e., smaller local depots and pick from the store or store adjacent spaces rather than the big out of town shed), and the publisher believes it will now all be about speed going forward. This requires a reimagining of the role of the store and network, pragmatically deploying digital technology to streamline operations and serve customers better while reallocating excess space and using data to identify whether some stores should close or become online nodes.
The publisher expects online grocery to split into various sub-channels. Akin to the situation in physical offline grocery, where several channels coexist, such as hypermarkets, supermarkets, discounters, convenience stores, organic specialists, this will probably be mirrored by online grocery concepts. And maybe even price segmentation will set in (perhaps reflected in different delivery fees and pass options).
In any case, what will help online grocery in future is this new infrastructure being built by the likes of Amazon, Deliveroo, Uber, Instacart, Glovo, GoPuff and so, even if various players exit the market again, the logistics will have been put in place so the winners can offer other services on them, not just grocery.
1. Executive Summary
2. Sizes and market shares
- US online grocery sizes 2017-2021, according to Nielsen
- US online grocery sizes, definitions and sizes of other providers
- Players and market shares, from Amazon to Ahold Delhaize
- The takeaway players (DoorDash, Uber Eats etc)
3. The ultra-fast startups
- Overview: GoPuﬀ, Gorillas, Getir, the emergence of a new channel
- Overview: 10-minute turnaround guarantee
- Overview: delivery fees a route to profitability?
- Overview: promise to investors to build a truly global grocery business
- GoPuff raises $380M at a $3.9B valuation
- GoPuff buys liquor store chain BevMo!
- SoftBank invested $750m in GoPuff last summer
- GoPuff becomes a $9bn grocery delivery company
- GoPuff partners with Uber to deliver everyday essentials
- Gorillas has raised $44M in Series A funding
- The business model and its range
- New management for Gorillas
- Gorillas in Berlin
- Other German players: Flink and Bring
- Gorillas makes its debut in New York City
6. Fridge No More
- Fridge No More - the NYC player
- Fridge No More - $50 baskets
- Fridge No More - increasing product selection
7. Food Rocket
- Food Rocket - the same for the Bay Area
- Instacart - first monthly profit in April 2020
- Instacart - $35bn in GMV, IPO in 2021?
- Instacart starts express deliveries
- Farmstead - online farmer’s market evolves
- Farmstead, DoorDash eye longer online grocery reach
- Farmstead expands Refill & Save program
- Anycart - Amazon backed, recipe first marketplace
- Anycart - pure marketplace model
- Anycart - trying to become the Expedia of grocery
- Anycart - the Alexa link
- Weee - focus on Asian American and Hispanic
- Weee - making the niche their own
12. Good Eggs
- Good Eggs - another former online farmers market trying to pivot
- Good Eggs - geographic expansion on again?
13. Imperfect foods
- Imperfect Foods - from food redistribution to full-stack online grocer
- Imperfect Foods - 200 million pounds of food saved from going to waste
- Lula - another Philadelphia startup
15. Sonic +
- Sonic+ tackles high food costs, waste with app
- Sonic+ trying to become a “super app”
- Quicklly - brings South Asian cuisines to wider audience
- Quicklly - marketplace for the niche
17. Hungry Root
- Hungryroot - NY based personalised subscription, adding brands
- Hungryroot - vegan, health & wellness, launching into stores
- Hungryroot Boosts Value to $750 Million
- Boxed, bulk-products retailer to go public via SPAC, the equity value of $900m
- Boxed - average basket size, eight items for $100 per order
- Can ultra-fast deliveries become profitable?
- Towards a sharing infrastructure?
- Drawbacks of rushed deliveries model - convenience store basket sizes
- Drawbacks - OOS, loyalty, from 10 min to 30 min?
- Drawbacks - fees structure potential, zoning laws
- The future - online to mirror offline shopping missions
List of Charts
Chart 1 US online grocery sizes 2017-2021
Chart 2 Players and market shares
- Food Rocket
- Fridge No More
- Good Eggs
- Hungry Root
- Imperfect foods
- Just Eat
- Sonic +
- Uber Eats
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