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How much does grocery delivery cost?

November 10, 2021 Lisa Hannam
How much does grocery delivery cost?

How much does food delivery cost in Canada? I’ve read that in the U.S. the premium for convenience is about 25%.

“In terms of costs, it’s hard to put a percentage like that for groceries. It really depends on the size of the order. If you’re looking at a 55-item order, it’s not 25%; it’s probably more like 10% or even less [based on a standard delivery fee]. 

“If you look at Instacart, for example, you’re looking at a $5 to $7 premium, depending on where you live. So it’s not that bad. And with some services, it doesn’t matter if you order five items or 50 items, it’s basically the same fee. In Halifax, for example, the fee is $6 no matter what. And the food is delivered to you within two hours basically.” (In Toronto, Instacart has a $3.99 fee for same-day delivery for orders over $35.)

“People want their food delivered to their home, and so people are willing to pay a fee. They’re even willing to pay for a membership. So, if they were to slap on a 25% increase, that is food inflation—25% is a lot of money to pay for food delivery.”

What grocery and food delivery services do you like?

“Instacart is very convenient—I’ve tried them all. With Instacart, they really do make an effort to get you in the store virtually. Basically you put your order in, and then maybe 10 minutes later, you get a text from your Instacart shopper: ‘I’m your Instacart shopper, I’m shopping right now for your food.’ They tell you that you’ve ordered bananas, they’re out of bananas, and these are the options to substitute. At the beginning of the pandemic, the accuracy rate was awful. I mean, they were just substituting without consent. And now they are really well organized. 

“And there’s also the Sobeys model with Voilà, where it’s integrated, owned and operated by Sobeys. But Instacart is an app. It’s subcontracting delivery, for Loblaws, Walmart and Costco. You get a car, bringing you your groceries. There’s no uniform or anything. It’s not as sophisticated as Sobeys, for example, with the fleet and branding.”

How much do you pay for a “more sophisticated” food delivery service like that?

“It’s a little bit more expensive—$8 or $9. I haven’t used Voilà because it’s not available here yet. But the thing about it which I think is very interesting is that it’s a human-less process. It’s all machines, fulfilling orders with a distribution centre in Vaughan. It can fulfill a 50-item order in less than five minutes. It’s impressive.”

Do I tip for grocery delivery?

“We haven’t looked into that. We looked at tipping in food service. Apps will prompt you for tipping if appropriate and are clear on the protocols. But it’s not the same as prepared food delivery, like with UberEats. With delivered meal kits, like HelloFresh and Goodfood, you don’t tip for that.” More on Charlebois’s views on tipping.

Can you get lower-quality food from delivery? I mean, you’re not the one picking through produce. What should we buy and not buy online? 

“Everyone is concerned about that. When you go into a grocery store, you don’t just buy food, you buy aesthetics, you buy time. I’ve seen people go into the back of a shelf so the item is fresher. Especially at the dairy counter, you don’t buy milk that is about to expire. You know the ones at the front are about to expire, so you look for one that will expire in a few weeks.

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