Would you order groceries through your phone? Instacart hopes so as service expands in San Gabriel Valley, Riverside, San Bernardino

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Nate Lockwood demonstrates how he would buy groceries for a client at Smart & Final. Instacart, a San Francisco-based grocery and restaurant delivery service, is about to expand its footprint in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties to serve an additional 1 million households.
Nate Lockwood demonstrates how he would buy groceries for a client at Smart & Final. Instacart, a San Francisco-based grocery and restaurant delivery service, is about to expand its footprint in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties to serve an additional 1 million households. John McCoy — Staff Photographer

Instacart, a San Francisco-based grocery delivery service, is about to expand its footprint in Southern California to serve an additional 1 million households.

The company, which already serves nearly 2 million households in the Los Angeles area and more than 49 million nationwide, will begin its expanded service today. It will allow residents to shop online at Stater Bros., Smart & Final, Costco, Petco and Whole Foods Market and Ralphs and have their groceries delivered to their doorsteps in as little as an hour.

It will also bump Instacart’s footprint up to more than 50 million households served.

Instacart plans to hire more than 300 new shoppers to handle the increased business.

“We’re actually doing a lot of launches concurrently,” said Sean Twersky, regional director of Instacart’s operations west of the Mississippi. “We just did Tulsa last week and we’re launching in new areas all the time.”

The Southern California expansion will bring Instacart into 14 additional L.A. County cities, including Pomona, Baldwin Park, Covina, West Covina, Diamond Bar and Claremont, among others.

Deliveries will likewise be expanded to San Bernardino and Riverside counties, which the company previously didn’t serve.

The expansion into San Bernardino County will include nearly 20 cities, including Chino Hills, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Montclair, Upland, San Bernardino and Fontana.

The Riverside County expansion will add 24 communities, including Riverside, Indio, Coachella, La Quinta, Palm Desert, Palm Springs and Corona.

In Ventura County, service will be available in Ventura, Casitas Springs, Mussel Shoals, Dulah, Faria, Camarillo, Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Saticoy.

Instacart already offers service in Orange County, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Dana Point.

Instacart’s rapid growth comes at a time when online shopping is becoming more popular with consumers.

Walmart is expanding its online grocery pickup service to 26 California stores this month and Amazon’s AmazonFresh grocery delivery service continues to expand. Amazon also announced that it plans to buy the Whole Foods grocery chain for $13.7 billion.

Twersky said those factors had little bearing on Instacart’s decision to expand its service.

“Our expansion plans were on the table for quite a while,” he said. “But if anything all of that change made us say, ‘If we can do this, let’s do it faster.’”

How it works

Instacart’s business model is simple.

Customers go online to www.Instacart.com or open the Instacart mobile app on their iPhone or Android device, select their city and store, add items to their virtual shopping cart, choose a delivery window — within one hour, within two or up to seven days in advance — and check out.

An Instacart shopper accepts the order on his or her smartphone and uses the Instacart shopper app to guide them through shopping. The items are delivered within the customer’s specified time frame.

Twersky said many Instacart customers tend to be millennials who grew up with smart phones and computer technology. But the service cuts across other demographics as well.

“We’re also seeing moms with lots of children, for example,” he said. “Let’s face it, if you had a choice between having your groceries arrive at your door or taking three screaming kids around the store in a shopping cart … that’s a no-brainer. This service is also good for folks who have suffered a disability, whether it’s permanent or temporary. When you can’t move around this can be a lifesaver.”

Online shopping on the rise

Findings in a recent report from the Food Marketing Institute reveal that online food shopping will ramp up quickly in the U.S. over the next decade, outpacing the momentum of other industries that have come online.

And that equates to big bucks. The report estimates that in the current climate of increased technology, online grocery spending over the next 10 years could hit $100 billion.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director for the retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, said Instacart resonates with Southland consumers who often see their personal time eroding because they’re stuck in traffic gridlock.



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