US Online Grocery Markets Report 2021: Ultra-fast Start-ups Could be One of the Enduring Legacies of the COVID-19 Era –

US Online Grocery Markets Report 2021: Ultra-fast Start-ups Could be One of the Enduring Legacies of the COVID-19 Era –

DUBLIN–()–The “US Online Grocery 2021” report has been added to’s offering.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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

Companies Mentioned

  • Amazon
  • Anycart
  • Boxed
  • Delhaize
  • Deliveroo
  • Everli
  • Farmstead
  • Food Rocket
  • Fridge No More
  • Getir
  • Glovo
  • Good Eggs
  • GoPuff
  • Gorillas
  • GrubHub
  • Hungry Root
  • Imperfect foods
  • Instacart
  • Just Eat
  • Lula
  • Quicklly
  • Sonic +
  • Uber Eats
  • Weee

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