business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Associated Press:

"Demand for grocery delivery is cooling as prices for food and other necessities rise. Some are shifting to pickup — a less expensive alternative where shoppers pull up curbside or go into the store to collect their already-bagged groceries — while others say they’re comfortable doing the shopping themselves … Some think delivery demand could drop further. Chase Design, a consulting firm, says its surveys show the number of U.S. shoppers who plan to use grocery delivery 'all the time' has fallen by half since 2021."

As the pandemic, which fueled growth in the sector, began to recede, "demand softened. In June, Americans spent $2.5 billion on grocery delivery — down 26% from 2020. For comparison, they spent $3.4 billion on grocery pickup, which saw demand drop 10.5% from its pandemic highs.

"That’s causing some turmoil in the industry. Buyk filed for bankruptcy in March; Jokr pulled out of the U.S. in June. Instacart — the U.S. market leader in grocery delivery — slashed its own valuation by 40% to $24 billion in March ahead of a potential IPO."

•  Politico reports that Amazon lobbied the White House and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this spring, urging them "to tap Amazon’s massive distribution networks to speed the delivery of formula to desperate consumers" at a time when formula was difficult to come by.

Ultimately, the decision was made to prioritize bricks-and-mortar stores in finding ways to get baby formula to consumers, and "Amazon officials were left with the impression the White House didn’t want to appear as if it was prioritizing the online retail giant, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

"The company has had at times contentious relations with the Biden administration and progressive Democrats in Congress. One White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the reason was more simple. 'They can’t take WIC,' the official said, referencing the federal nutrition program for low-income moms and babies, which is used to purchase roughly half of all infant formula consumed in the country.

"That’s because as of now, WIC benefits cannot be used to purchase food online — restrictions that have proved to be a major headache for the administration as it tries to address the formula crisis. The federal government has been working to change that in recent years, including efforts to modernize the 1980’s-era payment system for WIC as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, which provides federal food assistance to more than 40 million Americans."

• reports that fast delivery company Gopuff is rolling out an immediate payment option called Instant Cash Out that will be a way "for drivers to immediately transfer their earnings to a bank account … The change comes to US delivery partners, aka drivers, through a partnership with fintech platform Stripe, to offer drivers 'with an eligible debit card' the option to cash out their earnings and tips quicker. Previously, the company paid drivers their earnings and tips on a weekly basis, a spokesperson said."

The new option, the story notes, was one "heavily requested by drivers."

These drivers must be thrilled to be listened to … at least, the ones that are left.  The story also points out that it was just weeks ago that it laid off 10 percent of its US workforce.  

•  TrendHunter reports that "Instacart is enabling grocers to make use of the FoodStorm order management system (OMS) in a bid to make it easier for them to offer catering items online and for delivery. The first retailer to use the service is Uncle Giuseppe's Marketplace, which will allow customers in the New York and New Jersey area to place catering orders online."

Jeanette Barlow, Instacart's VP - Product, Retailer Solutions, says that ""Catering represents one of the highest-margin categories for grocers, driving meaningful incremental growth for their business as consumer demand increases. In the first half of 2022, we’ve seen nearly a 20% increase in customers searching for ‘catering’ on Instacart, compared to the same period last year."