Online Grocery Delivery: Is One of These Services Right for You?

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Online and mobile grocery shopping with home delivery is just another sign of the explosive growth of ecommerce. Internet giants and small start-ups compete for consumers' food dollars by partnering with supermarket chains. Online grocers maintain their own warehouses, and neighborhood supermarkets deliver to customers' homes or car for curbside pickup. Consumers pay for this convenience in the form of service and/or delivery fees, but they save precious time and avoid the kind of impulse buys that can wreck the weekly grocery budget. This alphabetical list examines 10 grocery delivery services that serve different areas and appeal to different types of shoppers.

FOR FREQUENT ORDERS ONLY: AMAZONFRESH

Originally offered free to Prime members in Seattle, New York City, and Philadelphia, AmazonFresh now requires a $299 Prime Fresh membership. This comes with a year of free deliveries in those markets as well as southern and northern California (with a minimum order of $50) in addition to the standard Amazon Prime benefits. Consumers can order all kinds of groceries, from meat and dairy to produce, packaged foods, and paper goods at prices that are at least on par with grocery chains. Food is packed in climate-controlled bags and can be delivered to an unattended location. Although this service might appeal to Amazon Prime members who order weekly (the cost amounts to an extra $4 a week for existing members, Amazon points out), customers have balked at the high price of membership.

FOR PRIME MEMBERS: AMAZONPRIMEPANTRY

Amazon Prime members who need nonperishables, especially items that are heavy (such as laundry detergent), can turn to AmazonPrimePantry. Users pay $5.99 to fill a box with 45 pounds worth of household items that is mailed to their homes. There are more than 12,000 items in Amazon's pantry -- anything found in a grocery store except for produce, dairy, or meat. Shoppers can see how much of the box has filled after adding an item to the cart. As usual with Amazon, prices are very competitive.

FOR BULK PRODUCTS: BOXED

Bulk items that are cumbersome to bring home in a car or on public transit are the order of the day here. The selection is limited (only two kinds of mouthwash, for example), but prices are low and delivery is free on orders greater than $50. And for every $500 spent, consumers earn $5 back. Boxed ships by FedEx throughout the lower 48, with delivery within two business days. Express service -- a personal shopper delivers groceries from a local Costco to your door -- is free on orders over $65 ($5.99 otherwise) and available in Boston, Atlanta, New Jersey, and parts of New York City.

FOR NYC: FRESHDIRECT

This online food delivery service sources many of its offerings from local farms and artisanal producers and also sells brand-name groceries. Aside from the tried and true, customers can order meal kits and exotic meats and cheeses. Prices are not cheap (an 18-ounce box of Cheerios costs $5.99 compared with $3.99 at many supermarkets, for example), although there are frequent sales and coupons. Delivery costs $5.99 (higher in some areas), but a Delivery Pass membership, for $119 annually, waives delivery fees and ensures a permanent delivery time slot. FreshDirect delivers in New York City and some parts of the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

FOR FAST DELIVERY: GOOGLE EXPRESS

Google Express partners with retailers of all stripes, so a same-day or overnight delivery could contain both rice and a saw blade. It does not, however, deliver anything requiring refrigeration or special handling, and extra fees apply for delivery of certain items, such as alcoholic beverages. The price of the merchandise mirrors what shoppers would pay in-store. Next-day delivery is free with a Google Express membership ($95 annually or $10 monthly); nonmembers pay $4.99 with a minimum order (varies by store). If a requested item is unavailable, in-store shopping teams select a substitute. This shopping portal occasionally runs promotions. Delivery service for nonperishables is available in northern and southern California, Manhattan, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Google Express is testing delivery of refrigerated groceries in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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FOR POPULAR CHAINS: INSTACART

Currently available in 15 metropolitan areas including New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Minneapolis (but not all ZIP codes within each), Instacart partners with national chains such as Whole Foods, Costco, and local high-end grocers. A personal shopper collects the requested items, sends a text if substitutions are necessary, and tells the consumer when to expect delivery. Prices don't necessarily replicate those on the store shelf; retailers decide how much to charge Instacart customers. In-store sale prices and coupons are not honored, but manufacturers' coupons are. Savings are also available through occasional Instacart sales and promotions. Delivery fees vary, partly by time of day, but usually cost $3.99 for orders greater than $35; similar-size orders are free to Instacart Express members. A 10 percent tip is added automatically, but customers can alter that.

FOR DELIVERY NATIONWIDE: NETGROCER

One of the first online groceries, NetGrocer delivers anywhere via FedEx, including APO and FPO addresses. Customers don't have to sign for orders, so there's no need to wait at home. Shipping charges vary by order size and delivery location, starting at $9.99 and increasing as orders exceed $25 and extend farther west. Delivery is expected within three days. Groceries are searchable and arranged alphabetically by category on the site; frequently ordered items can be saved to a separate list. NetGrocer also stocks health and beauty aids. It offers frequent sales, coupons, and promotions, and prices are generally competitive with traditional supermarkets.

FOR VARIETY: PEAPOD

Another industry pioneer, Peapod is the largest online food delivery service in the country. It also offers pickup from Peapod stores in the Midwest, Stop Shop stores in New England, and Giant stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Delivery fees vary by location and order size (minimum order is $60) but typically range between $6 and $10; curbside pickup costs $2.95. Prices and selection match those in supermarkets; greens grown in local rooftop greenhouses are available in the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis metro areas. Store sales and coupons and manufacturers' coupons apply to online orders. Shoppers can save lists for future orders and select a delivery window for the following day.

FOR SAFEWAY SHOPPERS: SAFEWAY GROCERY DELIVERY

Safeway supermarkets offer home delivery wherever Safeway stores are located. A $12.95 delivery fee is charged on orders between $49 and $150; the fee is $9.95 after that. There are frequent promotions for free or discounted delivery. The curbside "drive up and go" service, with a six-hour pickup window at the store, is free for orders greater than $150 and costs $3 for smaller orders. Consumers can save shopping lists so that items ordered frequently pop up automatically; products bought with a loyalty card are added to the shopping history. Most goods are available at in-store prices and all coupons and sales are valid. Unlike most online grocery delivery services, Safeway accepts EBT benefits (food stamps) as payment from customers with disabilities.

FOR PERSONALIZED SERVICE: SHOPRITE FROM HOME

Personal shoppers are integral to ShopRite From Home, which means orders can be personalized, up to the thickness of deli meat slices. They inquire about substitutions and deal with any delivery issues. ShopRite charges a $5 service fee (for finding and packing groceries) and a $6.95 delivery fee for orders less than $150 (zero after that); curbside pickup costs $5.95. Products and prices for home delivery are the same as those in the store, and include sale and promotional items. Online shoppers must have a loyalty card.