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What is Grocery Delivery?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Grocery delivery is something that has been around, in one form or another, for centuries. From its initial introduction to the consumer, grocery stores have always had some delivery component to them. Now, as consumers demand more conveniences, and the Internet is becoming an increasingly popular commerce tool, grocery delivery is again experiencing a new resurgence. However, its future is still in doubt.

At the beginning of the 20th century, grocery stores were run much different than they are today in many places, including most of the United States. A list would be taken to a grocery clerk or stock person, then it would be filled by that person. The grocery delivery could be merely to the counter, or it may be delivered directly to the home, depending on the arrangement and willingness to pay.

Other types of grocery delivery also happened throughout the first half of the 20th Century. Dairy, eggs, and ice were just a few of the products that were delivered as part of regular routes. While the invention of affordable refrigeration quickly led to the elimination of these services, they were a very vital part of grocery delivery for decades.

Now, the Internet has a new form of ordering and grocery delivery. Non-perishables can be delivered from all corners of the globe, either by parcel service or through the mail. Either way, there are plenty of options available for such items.

Some local grocery stores have also dabbled in the grocery delivery business, with various levels of success. For example, some stores offer online ordering. Once a user picks their desired products, the order is then sent to the local grocery store, which then offers grocery delivery via third-party carrier or a store employee.

Although many have tried this strategy of grocery delivery, some stores have given up on the practice, at least temporarily. High fuel prices and a lukewarm reception are some of the reasons for this suspension of services. If the practice gains widespread acceptance among other grocery chains, there is a chance grocery stores that had given up on the practice will try again. Often, it may take more than one attempt before a new service is fully accepted.

In addition, some companies, such as Schwan's, run large refrigerator and freezer trucks on specified routes, much like the milk man used to do. However, instead of delivering only dairy products, these companies deliver a variety of frozen goods. Schwan's has been doing business much the same way since 1952.

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Discussion Comments

By Reminiscence — On Apr 25, 2014

I'm just old enough to remember when our only supermarket offered grocery delivery. My dad would basically take inventory of our pantry and refrigerator, then make a list of whatever we needed. It was usually staple items like meat, bread, milk and eggs. We had to tell him what other things we wanted, like breakfast cereals and snacks, and he'd decide if it was worth adding to the list.

He'd call someone at the grocery store and a clerk would get the list and start pulling the items off the shelf. A grocery delivery truck would be loaded from the back dock and the driver dropped off each order at the front door. We'd see that truck coming up the street and run out to help the driver carry the bags. It cost more to go shopping that way, but we didn't have to fight the crowds or find a parking space near the store.

By Phaedrus — On Apr 24, 2014

There are times when I wish local stores still offered grocery delivery services. I have an elderly mother who is mostly housebound, and I have to go grocery shopping at least once a week for her. I don't mind doing it, but I live on the other side of town and I have to make a separate trip to get her shopping list before the main grocery run. It would be great if she could call in her order from her house and have the food delivered right to her door.

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