First they came for your search, then they came for your phone, now they want your groceries.
Google is getting into the fresh foods business. The company confirmed on Tuesday that Google Express, the company’s delivery service, will send fresh fruits and vegetables to customers in San Francisco and one other city (so far unnamed) later this year.
The tech company also announced it will expand its next-day delivery service – which is already available in cities including Chicago, New York and San Francisco and works with partners like Barnes & Noble, Target and ToysRUs – to areas in the midwest.
“Today, we’re very excited to be further expanding our efforts – making it easy for over 25 million people in the midwest to get things they need from stores they love – delivered overnight,” said Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express.
The home-delivered groceries market in the US is dominated by established brick-and-mortar players like Whole Foods (with which Google Express will partner), as well as companies like FreshDirect that cater to high-cost-of-living regions. (FreshDirect serves New York City and its environs, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.) With the new plan, overnight delivery will expand into the greater Chicago area, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The other major food delivery service with national ambitions is Amazon, which is currently battling FreshDirect for customers in New York with its Amazon Fresh service. A BI Intelligence report put the forecast for the delivery sector of the $700bn US market at $18bn by 2018.
Google Express is unique among home-delivery market competitors by virtue of its partnerships. Rather than sell items out of its warehouses (which Google tried earlier this summer), the company works with Whole Foods in the case of its fresh goods, in addition to Costco, Fairway and many others when it comes to selling dry goods. The plan is currently to capitalize on the cachet of the existing brands Google has joined with – Elliott said the plan was “to connect people with their favorite stores”, and the site features logos from those stores – including Amazon competitor Barnes & Noble.
But the company’s entry into the grocery market hasn’t been without incident: when the Google Express warehouse and shipping workers opted to join the Teamsters in August, the newly unionized laborers cited lack of ventilation, low wages, poor benefits and a contract with Google subcontractor Adecco that limited the term of employment to a maximum of two years.
Google notified Adecco earlier this summer that it was moving away from its warehousing system, a source said – the plan for Google Express at the moment is for the goods it delivers to be warehoused and supplied out of the existing physical stores with which it partners.
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