Apps that promise grocery deliveries in 10 minutes invade Europe as shopping shifts online

Key Points
  • Turkey's Getir, Germany's Gorillas and Britain's Dija are just a few of the apps promising users 10-minute grocery deliveries.
  • Venture-backed grocery delivery firms have raised roughly $1.56 billion in Europe so far this year, up from $687 million in 2020.
  • Investors believe these start-ups will thrive long after the pandemic, but some experts question their business models.
A Getir delivery scooter seen parked along the street in central London.
Petra Figueroa | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

LONDON — A new crop of start-ups in Europe are offering to deliver people's groceries in just 10 minutes, fueled by venture capitalists and an acceleration of online commerce during the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkey's Getir, Germany's Gorillas and Britain's Dija are just a few of the apps promising users 10-minute grocery deliveries. It's an increasingly crowded market with many new entrants attempting to gain a strong foothold in local markets.

"The acceleration in the grocery space has been huge and went together with what has been happening in the pandemic," Alberto Menolascina, co-founder and CEO of Dija, told CNBC in an interview.

Dija, which operates in London, Paris and Madrid, raised $20 million in seed funding in December. Menolascina, a former Deliveroo employee, founded the firm with colleague Yusuf Saban. Both Getir and Gorillas entered the U.K. capital earlier this year.

These firms operate what's known as "dark stores," fulfilment centers designed to carry out online orders rather than serve customers in person. Dija and Gorillas hire their couriers rather than relying on contractors like Deliveroo and other players in the gig economy.

Venture capital investors are gushing over speedy delivery start-ups. Venture-backed grocery delivery firms have raised around $1.56 billion in Europe so far this year, according to PitchBook, easily surpassing the $687 million that flowed into the sector in 2020.

And the deals are only getting more competitive. According to Bloomberg, both Getir and Gorillas are seeking investment rounds of at least $500 million, which would value them at $7 billion and $6 billion, respectively.

Gorillas declined to comment on the Bloomberg report. Getir wasn't immediately available at the time of publication.

Hot market

It's not hard to see why investors are flocking to the red-hot grocery delivery market. Food delivery apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Deliveroo are making big bets on online grocery shopping. Their businesses have thrived as people spent more time at home due to coronavirus restrictions.

In the U.K., traditional supermarkets are still the dominant players in online grocery delivery, adding significant numbers of users in the pandemic, according to app analytics firm App Radar. Tesco was the most-downloaded groceries app on the Google Play Store, adding 1.2 million users since March 2020, while Asda — which was sold by Walmart in an $8.8 billion deal last year — was close behind, adding 964,000.

The upstarts are beginning to catch up, however. Gorillas has amassed 112,000 downloads on Google Play since its launch in March last year, according to App Radar.

"At the moment, if you look purely at the numbers these startups are obviously far behind established players such as Amazon and the major grocery retailers," Thomas Kriebernegg, CEO and co-founder of App Radar, told CNBC. "However, things to do change quickly."

Kriebernegg said the delivery of groceries was a "hyper local problem" that required investments in specific regions. He added the space could be ripe for consolidation as some of the start-ups gain scale, with big tech names like Amazon and retail giants among the potential acquirers. Amazon is already an active player in the space, having launched its own online grocery brand called Amazon Fresh in 2017.

Another U.S. company, SoftBank-backed start-up Gopuff, was valued at $8.9 billion in a $1.15 billion financing deal earlier this year, giving it enough financial firepower for a potential takeover, while Instacart raised $265 million at a whopping $39 billion valuation.

Challenges ahead

Investors believe these start-ups will thrive long after the pandemic. But some retail industry executives and experts are skeptical on the rise of rapid grocery delivery apps.

Dark kitchens: Where does your food delivery really come from?
Dark kitchens: Where does your food delivery really come from?

Alex Harvey, chief of advanced technology at U.K. online grocery pioneer Ocado, told Insider last month that he doesn't think start-ups pose a long-term competitive risk to his business.

Jat Sahi, retail industry consulting lead at Fujitsu, told CNBC that the grocery upstarts' positions "don't seem very defensible."

"It's a useful service and will grow quickly," Sahi said via email. "But how do you differentiate one from the other? If you can't differentiate, you'll never make much margin or profit."

"Price really matters and it'll be a long time before these guys get the scale to get Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda etc pricing, especially if they are carving up the market between them," he added. "Tech and consumer trends make this easy to do, but it's hard to make it differentiated and highly profitable."

Sahi added that dark stores "probably won't work as well for these start-ups as dark kitchens," restaurant facilities designed to cater directly to online customers, "as store products are comparable whereas restaurant meals aren't."

The impending reopening of economies after lengthy lockdowns also threatens to stunt the growth of fast-growing delivery platforms. In its first-quarter trading update, Deliveroo recently warned it "expects the rate of growth to decelerate as lockdowns ease." Deliveroo has seen its share price slump 36% since its disappointing IPO in March.