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Is online grocery failing its audition?

walmart new online grocery

Six weeks ago, online grocery was on an upward trajectory.

I wondered if they could keep up with the explosive growth they’re experiencing.

Now, as I watch friends stalk pickup slots like they’re trying to catch a Black Friday special and see articles about Amazon cutting off new grocery customers, I know the answer.

It isn’t.

When the country started to shut down, we all knew consumers would pivot to e-commerce. There was no way for grocers to prepare for the unprecedented demand. Brick Meets Click estimates 20 million households have started ordering groceries online and there has been a 192% increase in online orders for delivery and pickup.

In my neck of the woods, H-E-B doubled the capacity of its Favor delivery service, which is in addition to its in-house grocery pickup.

It’s still not enough. What will be enough? And will consumers stick with it, even when they have to deal with out-of-stocks, delayed fulfillment and alleged theft by personal shoppers?

For now, one of the most common questions I get as a “grocery insider” is how to get groceries for either contactless pickup or delivery.

I tell people I have no tricks for traditional grocery and steer them toward local restaurants and produce distributors who have pivoted to selling ingredients to consumers.

I’m not talking about Subway Grocery or Panera Grocery, either. I like the idea of this, but the execution is lacking. Subway’s selling things like 5-pound bags of shredded iceberg, and when I checked Panera’s offerings this morning they only had five items available in produce, and the only in-stock dairy was squeezable strawberry yogurt.

That’s not really helpful.

There are a couple of restaurants in my area doing it well, with milk, bread, eggs, flour and probably 20 different produce items.

For a better selection of produce, a distributor definitely has better offerings. Brothers Produce and Hardie’s here in Austin have great online ordering portals and flexible pickups.

The Produce Moms also has compiled an extensive list of online ordering options in a new blog post here.

I’m in awe of how fast our industry has shifted to meet the current challenges. It’s going to be a wild ride over the next several months as we see what changes stick around in the long run.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.