On a quiet street in the rapidly gentrifying London neighborhood of Shoreditch, a small storefront thrums to a disco beat. Workers in black jackets wielding tablet computers hustle from aisle to aisle, packing bags with indulgences such as beer, avocados, and ice cream. As soon as the sacks are full, couriers on electric bikes whisk them off to customers who placed their orders less than 10 minutes earlier.
The fulfillment center in a former handbag store is one of more than 60 such operations in four countries run by Gorillas, an instant-delivery startup based in Berlin that will begin operating in the U.S. on May 30. Around the world, dozens of companies have jumped into the fast-growing business, including newcomers such as Philadelphia-based Gopuff, Turkey’s Getir, and Dija in London, as well as gig-economy veterans like Uber Technologies and Delivery Hero. Although their approaches differ, they’re all seeking to capitalize on the sloth and impatience of consumers by delivering groceries and other goods in mere minutes—a convenience that many grew accustomed to during the pandemic. “Every crisis accelerates some sort of model, this one accelerated e-commerce grocery penetration,” says Kagan Sumer, chief executive officer and co-founder of Gorillas. “Some of this accelerated adoption will go back to traditional retail, but a significant amount of this peak is going to stay because of convenience.”