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The Safeway near my house finally got curbside pickup which, because we’re in a pandemic and find outsized joy in the little things, made me deliriously happy.
For the past year, I’ve eschewed in-person grocery shopping, opting instead to drive 30 minutes to the Walmart because it has reliable and easy curbside pickup. So having a curbside pickup option less than 15 minutes away is fantastic. And if the first three months of 2021 are any indication, there will be even more online grocery shopping options for me and you and many many more people across the U.S. (and the world).
First, there has been a tremendous amount of investment in the online grocery space so far this year. This activity seems to have culminated over a 12-hour period this week when four different online grocery startups from the U.S. and across Europe all announced significant funding rounds: Instacart ($265 million), Rohlik (Czech Republic, $230 million), Flink (Germany, $52 million) and Crisp (Netherlands, $36 million).
Even prior this week though, there has been a steady drumbeat of hefty online grocery investment over the past two months. Good Eggs raised $100 million, Weezy raised $20 million, Rosie raised $10 million, Imperfect Foods raised $110 million, and Chinese grocery app Xingsheng Youxuan raised a whopping $2 billion.
But it’s not just new funding that’s generating headlines for online grocery. Walmart is going hard after your grocery dollar. This week it eliminated the $35 minimum order for its Express two-hour delivery. In January, the retailer announced it was adding automated micro-fulfillment centers to dozens of its stores and that it was experimenting with temperature-controlled smart delivery lockers for home use.
Walmart’s not the only one. All the major retailers are gearing up to process more online grocery shopping orders. Albertsons is testing a new drive up automated pickup kiosk. Stop & Shop is piloting smart lockers in Boston for pedestrians and bike riders. And Kroger is getting ready to open up the first of its planned 20 smart, robotic warehouses for order fulfillment.
Why is all of this happening right now? Not to brag, but because of people like me. I’ve switched over almost entirely to online grocery ordering (for the aforementioned curbside pickup). At a time when the pandemic is still very much a part of our lives, it’s a simple thing that I can do to help mitigate any potential spread of the virus to myself and others. Even after the pandemic recedes I imagine that most of my grocery shopping will happen online, with less frequent trips into the store.
And I’m not alone. According to the most recent survey data from Brick Meets Click, U.S. online grocery sales hit $9.3 billion in January, with 70 million households placing an average of 2.8 orders across delivery, pickup and ship-to-home categories. Online grocery is projected to hit $250 billion and take up 21.5 percent of total grocery sales by 2025. So online grocery startups are bolstering their warchests to expand their footprints while industry stalwarts invest to solidify their leading positions.
Whether we’re in a pandemic or not, people will always have to eat. What they won’t have to do, however, is go into a grocery store to get their food.
Postmates X Spun Out of Uber to Become Serve Robotics – The new company will be headquartered in San Francisco and led by Ali Kashani, who headed up Postmates X.
Gotham Greens Heads West, Partners With University of California-Davis to Grow Better Greens – The California greenhouse is expected to open in 2021 and, like other Gotham facilities, will grow leafy greens that will then be sold to retailers and foodservice businesses.
Ocean Hugger Will Re-enter the Plant-Based Seafood Space Via a Partnership With Nove Foods – The venture comes after after the pandemic forced Ocean Hugger, which previously sold products primarily to foodservice businesses, to cease operations.
Gatik Gets $9 Million (CAD) to Winterize its Autonomous Middle-Mile Delivery Tech – Part of that money is coming from Ontario, Canada’s government.