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June 18, 2013

Consumers' desire for local, organic food drives online grocery business

(Continued)

"They're the people who are the CEO of the home," she said. "It's a source of guilt for some -- that they're so busy they barely have time to get anything done and still have time to prepare and serve good food."

Jostling for position

For the moment, competition in the online grocery business is actually rather slight, as companies stay within their chosen market boundaries. But that situation is bound to change as the more successful start-ups seek new markets to counquer and as Amazon and other large players get serious about protecting and expanding their turf.

At the moment, Door to Door has operations in Colorado, Kansas City, Chicago, Michigan and the Greater New York area, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, Vaccaro said.

Relay operates in Charlottesville and Richmond, Va. and in the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area, with plans to expand to Charlotte, N.C., Florida and the Midwest, according to Katz.

AmazonFresh so far serves only Seattle and Los Angeles but if things go well in Southern California, it is expected to quickly expand into other West Coast markets.

Peapod operates in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions as well as Chicago and is thought to be by far the largest online grocer at the moment. It reports filling 23 million orders last year. Door to Door and Relay, both privately-held venture-backed firms, don't reveal their sales or revenue figures.

Last to budge

Ironically, the slowest to adapt to online grocery shopping may turn out to be the men who are generally early adopters of technology. Most of us have perfected a shopping methodology that consists of roaming the supermarket aisles and grabbing whatever looks edible, then hauling it home like the triumphal hunter-gatherers we see ourselves as.

Shopping online takes more planning than we're accustomed to devoting to something as seemingly simple as food, as I discovered when I tried to conduct a couple of sample online shopping trips. I quickly gave up and said, "I'll just go to the store and find something."

But, like most things, it probably gets better with practice.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.

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