Cheap groceries, free delivery, on your the doorstep in 10 to 20 minutes. Fast-track grocery services have sprung up like weeds during the pandemic with players pulling out all the stops to tempt in shoppers.
At least seven key players are vying for dominance in the UK. Most are currently focused on London, with only Weezy, Fancy and Gorillas venturing outside the capital so far. But all the major players, who also include Getir, Dija, Zapp and Jiffy, are planning to expand into new cities this year with Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and beyond in their sights.
Jiffy and Getir are both aiming to open more than 90 hubs across the country with Dija is aiming for every major city by the end of the year.
Expansion is being pumped up by $14bn (£9.8bn) of investment into this hot new market globally since the beginning of the pandemic, according to financial industry analysts PitchBook. Getir’s latest funding round valued the Turkish company at $2.6bn, Gorillas has splashed out on a major television advertising campaign.
Online supermarket orders and deliveries may now be an ordinary part of many families’ lives, accounting for about 14% of the entire grocery market. But these new “quick commerce” players are gunning for the corner shop, aiming to make ordering a pint of milk, a bottle of wine and some crisps via your phone as natural as a turning to Spotify or Netflix.
Regular Getir user Steve Thomas, 41, in Hackney, east London, says he uses the app to buy specialist beers such as Beavertown and Brewdog as, with the current offer of free delivery, he can get them cheaper via the app than popping to a convenience store or via services such as Deliveroo or Uber Eats.
“Prices are extremely reasonable,” he says. “It’s great if you are watching the football or a few friends pop round.”
The apps may appear similar to Ocado’s Zoom or Sainsbury’s Chop Chop, which both offer grocery deliveries in under an hour, or buying groceries from Waitrose, the Co-op or Aldi via Deliveroo. Their point of difference is a faster and, arguably, more reliable service using “dark stores” – small very local distribution centres.
They stock no more than about 4,000 different items, 10 to 15 times fewer than a typical supermarket, but can target ranges to suit local shoppers and are far less likely to make substitutions because they know exactly what is in stock. Some, notably Weezy and Gorillas, supplement their offer with products from local specialists such as bakers or pizza makers. Delivery charges can be lower too: Weezy charges £2.95, others as little as 99p.
Shoppers range from students to harried parents stuck at home with kids, to young professionals wanting a quick meal after work or dinner party hosts in a last-minute panic over a forgotten ingredient.
Unlike takeaway food delivery firms, nearly all the grocery businesses employ their riders directly, paying by the hour, and providing them with electric bikes or electric mopeds.
“You can’t offer consistency and wow customers every time by sending gig riders into stores,” says Steve O’Hear at Zapp. Couriers delivering from shops cannot be sure if goods are in stock and will always take longer to deliver, he claims.
These start-ups only account for a tiny slice of the spend via takeaway delivery apps such as Deliveroo – less than 0.4%, according to analysts at Kantar. However, they are rapidly expanding. Some estimates suggest they could eventually account for up to half the UK’s online grocery market – currently valued at almost £18bn.
Getir, the most established of the European quick-commerce groups, has signed up 3.9m new shoppers so far this year on Android phones, according analysts at App Radar.
Weezy co-founder Alec Dent says growth, initially spurred by stay-at-home orders, has continued as lockdowns eased.
“If anything we see growth picking up. People are now used to ordering online for a big weekly shop but don’t want the constraint of [waiting in for it if they are not working from home].”
The phenomenon is international. In Moscow, 30% of its online grocery market is already taken up by quick commerce. Jiffy co-founder Vladimir Kholyaznikov, who previously worked on Russian food delivery service Foodza, believes it will be a “significant part of the market”. He adds: “Nobody can win this alone. There will be multiple successful companies.”
Eleanor Cooke, a lawyer in Battersea, south London, who now uses Weezy three or four times a week, says the app has become a habit after signing up for a money-off deal. “It has been a gamechanger. I started using it for snacks, crisps and a bottle of wine. I’ve been using it for six months and its just grown and grown.”
However, one supermarket boss expressed sceptism that quick-commerce could grab as much as half of the online market. “People who want to raise money for their brilliant idea need predictions like that,” he said.
“It sounds like an urban offer and not for the suburban family.”
Urban or suburban, many more families will be getting a chance to judge if it’s for them this year.
Runners and Riders
Launched in March 2021 by former Deliveroo executives, Dija raised $20m of seed funding in December. It is currently operating in London, Paris and Madrid, opens in Cambridge on Monday after buying local operator Genie, and plans to enter all major UK cities by the end of this year, including Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Edinburgh.
Stocks 4,000 different products delivered within 10 minutes for a 99p fee.
Launched January 2020, Fancy was bought by US operator GoPuff in May 2021. GoPuff is now valued at $8.9bn after raising $3.9bn in October last year. Currently making deliveries in Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, and Birmingham , with planned openings in London, Sheffield, and Nottingham, among others, in coming months.
Choice of more than 1,000 products which can be delivered within 30 minutes for £2 fee.
Founded in Turkey in 2015, where it already serves 25 cities, Getir launched in the UK in February this year. It already has 25 dark stores , in the capital, and is opening in Birmingham and Manchester in the coming months. Within a year, it hopes to have reached 15-20 UK cities including Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. The company raised $300m in March in a deal valuing it at $2.6bn, just two months after raising $128m.
A choice of 1,500 items in 15 minutes. Delivery is currently free, £1.99 fee in future.
Founded last spring in Berlin by Kağan Sümer and Jörg Kattner, Gorillas launched in the UK in March this year. It serves London and Manchester , and is already advertising for staff in Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham and Southampton. The company raised $290m in March valuing it at more than $1bn.
With over 2000 products, Gorillas delivers within 10 mins for charge of £1.80.
Jiffy’s co-founder Vladimir Kholyaznikov ran a similar start-up in Moscow before launching Jiffy in London in April 2021. The company is planning up to 100 dark stores in London and other cities this year. It raised £2.6m in seed funding in March.
Holds more than 1,200 items, delivers within 10 to 15 minutes and free first month then £1.99
Already serving London, Manchester and Brighton, with plans to be in other major cities including Birmingham and Edinburgh by the end of the year, Weezy launched in July 2020. Co-founder Alec Dent previously worked at ride sharing app BlaBlaCar, and the firm raised $20m in January 2021.
Delivers up to 2,000 products within 15 minutes for £2.95 charge.
Launched in London last summer by a team including former managers from Amazon and the Nigerian online grocer Jumia, Zapp is currently recruiting in Manchester. It raised new funds in March taking total backing to $100m since launch.
A range of 1,000 products, within 20 minutes for £1.99 fee.
Australians are the world’s biggest consumers of health and wellness apps, punching well above our per capita weight in our quest for peak physical and mental condition, according to research from telecommunications company Uswitch. In recent years we have also been making them – with everyone from fitness influencers to mental health advocacy groups launching digital products.
I’m partial to a bit of mobile-based movement and mindfulness myself, but I have a complex relationship with wellness. While I love green juices, pilates and my “ness” being “well”, I can’t abide many contemporary uses of the word. In the diet, fitness, fashion and other industries, “wellness” can feel like a barely repackaged “weight loss”, while “healthy” has replaced “slim” as companies respond superficially to the body positivity movement without really changing their ways.
Despite wholesome beginnings in the 1950s, wellness is often framed as a goal for the financially and genetically privileged – and don’t get me started on the pseudoscience.
So I choose cautious cynicism when engaging with wellness and wellbeing products – but I’ve also been alone in my house for the greater part of two years, so I’ll try pretty much anything.
Cost: $19.99 a month
Sweat is a women’s health app co-founded by Australian fitness influencer Kayla Itsines, who boasts a worldwide social media following of more than 40 million. It offers over 30 programs for training at home or the gym, including high-intensity interval training (Hiit), low-intensity training, yoga and barre.
I did sessions from the PWR Zero Equipment program and it was all easy to follow and very doable. Audio and written instructions and onscreen demonstrations are clear, and self-accountability is super easy. It’s perfect for lockdown and for busy people cramming in exercise wherever and whenever they can. Plus, I can report that burpees are still the merciless work of Satan herself.
Itsines has created an app that exists in the wellness space with little of the self-congratulatory, quasi-spiritual hoopla other influencers lean so heavily into. Sweat isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. It’s a workout app, you do workouts on it. Yes, there are recipes and lifestyle tips but they aren’t offered as miracle pathways to a higher plane of being.
Is it my preferred mode of exercise? No. But it’s convenient and flexible and I can see myself using it when I travel. If that’s a thing that ever happens again.
ReachOut’s WorryTime is an anxiety management app from the online youth mental health service that uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to disrupt and manage repetitive thinking.
I am by no definition a youth, but I have mild anxiety and WorryTime’s methodology appealed to me. You nominate a daily time to do all your worrying and when you feel anxious, you note why in the app; every day at the designated time, you worry about what’s still plaguing you and delete what’s not. Easy!
I used WorryTime diligently for a while, noting my fears, my troubles and doubts and reassessing them every 24 hours. All was going well until I got busy with work, stressed about work and scared I’d stop getting work. Where the app had been a welcome task, it became a bugbear.
I was trying not to think about things that made me anxious and knowing the app contained a list of them created a classic avoidance paradigm. I skipped a day. And the next day. And the day after that. Soon the WorryTime alarm was causing me the very anxiety it was engaged to minimise. After a few weeks of this mental chicken-egg dance, I deleted the app. I may have been in the foetal position at the time.
I’m not advocating against WorryTime. It could be a great tool for others. There are no one-size-fits-all mental health salves. It would be nice if there were though.
Bibliotherapy with State Library Victoria
My favourite discovery from this whole exercise is bibliotherapy or book therapy, an age-old practice that uses literature to support better mental health and wellbeing. Basically, you read or are read aloud a prescribed text, specifically chosen to raise questions, uncover truths and encourage healing. It’s also fun to say.
In response to the pandemic, a new podcast called Bibliotherapy with State Library Victoria was launched. Hosted by bibliotherapy practitioner Dr Susan McLaine, it offers to help people “stay calmer in this fragile time”. In each episode, McLaine reads a short story and a poem and poses questions for listeners. Texts range from emerging and obscure writers to Tolstoy, Donne and Kipling.
I love this podcast. There’s something so intimate and soothing about being read to, no doubt embedded in childhood nostalgia. McLaine’s voice takes some getting used to, though to be fair I find this with most podcast hosts, but her choice of texts is excellent and she reads everything slowly and deliberately, “savouring every word and offering space between words”. It’s the closest thing to a hug I’ve had in months.
The only bad thing about it is that there are only two short seasons. After a brief search for similarly soporific, story-based podcasts and apps, I found the excellent Dreamy podcast, a collection of beautiful sleep stories by First Nations storytellers like Jazz Money and Aurora Liddle-Christie. Bringing tens of thousands of years of oral tradition into the digital world, Dreamy is “helping people of all walks of life to quiet their minds, drift into dreams, and disconnect from their devices”.
I also found Sleep Stories on the Calm app ($14.99 a month). It’s full of grown-up tales and mindful nonsense to soothe or bore you into slumber. There are even equally terrible and amazing celebrity cameos: Matthew McConaughey, Cillian Murphy and the hot duke from Bridgerton will read to you like you’re a child. Last night Harry Styles read me the worst poem I’ve ever heard – for 40 minutes. Five stars. Would listen again.
The Resilience Project
Price: $4.49 one time fee
The Resilience Project app is a “daily wellbeing journal” for all ages from a Melbourne-based organisation of the same name, providing evidence-based mental health strategies and “sharing the benefits of gratitude, empathy and mindfulness” to schools, sports clubs and businesses.
Users are encouraged to log on every day, note how they feel, record who or what they’re grateful for, perform acts of kindness and do a short guided meditation. This nice daily ritual only takes a few minutes but proves a small antidote to the current news cycle.
I don’t see myself using it long-term, because of repetitiveness and the world’s shortest attention span, but during this lockdown I’ve appreciated the nightly reminder to acknowledge my blessings and privilege and to reach out to friends.
Though it can’t do the heavy lifting where mental health is concerned, I’ll put it in my arsenal of chronic depression coping mechanisms, and try to use it in bad times. It won’t soothe what only drugs and Great British Bake Off can, but it might provide a few minutes respite.
Cost: $40 a month
The Class is an American exercise methodology-slash-mindfulness practice with semi-cult vibes, taught by a host of ridiculously hot and relentlessly cool twentysomethings who can pull off white Lycra and blend in on aGirlsset.
In fortuitous timing, founder Taryn Toomey launched online classes in late 2019, taking the Class into locked down homes around the world from 2020. Australians can access a wide selection of on-demand and live online classes, and there’s even an Australian teacher. Timezone differences narrow live options quite a bit, but most live classes become on-demand classes, so it doesn’t really matter.
Frequented by celebrities including Alicia Keys, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone, the Class is a mat-based, music-driven “cathartic workout experience” designed to “strengthen the body and balance the mind”. It’s yoga meets Les Mills meets clubbing. Movements are simple, repetition is key and loud exhales are encouraged. You may do squats for a whole song, free dance for another and star jumps for the next. In between, there’s stillness.
Teachers speak a kind of motivational psychobabble that is at once intolerable and addictive. It verges on the spiritual and flirts with cultural appropriation but remains just secular enough that I don’t turn it off. “Be in your power”; “You are enough”; “Softness is your birthright” and so on. Many teachers end their sessions with “I love you” which I somehow don’t hate.
At first, I struggled to put aside my prejudices against self-indulgent, pseudo-mystical wellness fads and find peace with beautiful women telling me to accept myself while making me do burpees. But the more I did it, the more I was able to just let go and roll with the theatre. Plus, it’s actually a very good workout.
I am now willingly paying for the Class. Let’s never speak of this again. I love you.
In brief Whether or not non-fungible tokens are a flash in the pan or forever, malware operators have been keen to weaponise the technology.
An investigation was triggered after a number of cryptowallets belonging to customers of the largest NFT exchange OpenSea got mysteriously emptied. Researchers at security shop Check Point found a nasty form of NFT was in circulation, one that came with its own malware package.
People were receiving free NFTs from an unknown benefactor, but when they accepted the gift the attackers got access to their wallet information in OpenSea’s storage systems. The code generated a pop-up, that if clicked, allowed wallets to be emptied.
After disclosing the issue Opensea had a fix sorted within an hour – we wish others took such prompt action – and the platform appears to be secured. But beware of “free” gifts, particularly where money is involved.
Crime doesn’t pay? really?
A US Treasury report has said that in the last three years ransomware operators using over 60 different variants have siphoned off $5.3bn in Bitcoin payments.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network report [PDF], first spotted by The Record, said that the ransoms taken in the the first six months of this year amounted to $590m, up from $416m for 2020, and the problem is getting worse, according to ten years of 2,184 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) analysed by the agency.
“If current trends continue, SARs filed in 2021 are projected to have a higher ransomware-related transaction value than SARs filed in the previous 10 years combined, which would represent a continuing trend of substantial increases in reported year-over-year ransomware activity,” the Treasury team warned.
Arming robots with sniper rifles, not worrying at all
US-based Ghost Robotics showed off an unusual new gadget this week at a meeting of the Association of the United States Army – a sniper rifle robot.
The robotics firm already has unarmed robot dogs acting as sentries at Tyndall Air Force Base but mounted a 6.5mm sniper rifle with a range of up to 1,200 meters (3937 feet) with both day and night vision cameras. The manufacturers were at pains to point out that this is not autonomous in any way and a human always controls the trigger, the robot just gets into position to keep its human operator safe.
The robot caused something of a storm, and Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh attributed this to the emotional connection robot dogs evoke and decades of movies about killer robots.
US warns critical water systems under attack
American online watchdogs at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has issued a security advisory following a spate of attacks against water and waste management facilities.
Since 2019 CISA said it had recorded five attacks against water systems, mostly ransomware but also aa former employee at Kansas-based water company who tried to tamper with drink water quality using credentials that should have been revoked when they left the biz.
For ransomware operators such businesses are tempting targets. Since water is such an essential service, it’s no-doubt thought that they’d be more likely to pay up rather than cause widespread disruption and panic.
Ukrainian cops cuff botnet suspect
The Security Service of Ukraine announced this week that they had arrested a man accused of running a massive botnet and charging for its use.
The man, a resident of Ivano-Frankivsk region in the west of the country, is said to have been running a botnet made up of over 100,000 infected systems. His opsec wasn’t great, he used telegram to tout for customers and, police say, made use of “electronic payment systems banned in Ukraine.”
A search of the suspect’s premises revealed computer equipment used to operate the botnet, and data stolen from botnet participants. Police say the suspect was also a representative of legitimate Russian payment service Webmoney, which is however under sanctions from the Ukrainian government.
Scientists at ICHEC have used supercomputing to predict Ireland’s weather patterns for the rest of the century.
In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spelled out the intensity of the climate crisis affecting every region of the world because of human activity, and Ireland is no exception.
Scientists at the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), based at NUI Galway, have been using advanced technology to create climate models and simulations that indicate the impact of the climate crisis on Ireland by mid-century.
Their work has raised some concerning predictions for Ireland’s weather patterns in the coming decades, including more heatwaves, less snow, and increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns – even by Irish standards.
Temperatures are set to increase by between one and 1.6 degrees Celsius relative to levels experienced between 1991 to 2000, with the east seeing the sharpest rise. Heatwaves, especially in the south-east of the country, are expected to become more frequent.
The simulations also found that the number of days Ireland experiences frost and ice will be slashed by half, as will the amount of snow that falls in winter. Rainfall will be more variable with longer dry and wet periods, and surface winds will become weaker.
While the report suggests that a heating climate may be good for farming in Ireland – a significant contributor to the economy – it will also be accompanied by the rise of pests that can have potentially devastating effects on agriculture.
Reduced wind strength and unpredictable weather will have an impact on Ireland’s growing renewable energy infrastructure, which relies heavily on specific climate conditions to reach targets.
“A mean warming of two or three degrees Celsius does not seem like much, given that temperatures can vary by a lot more than that just from day to day,” said ICHEC climate scientists Dr Paul Nolan and Dr Enda O’Brien.
“However, even that amount of warming is likely to lead to widespread and even dramatic changes in ice cover – especially in the Arctic – to sea levels, and in the natural world of plants and animals.”
With machine learning and supercomputing, scientists are able to use historical climate data and observations to improve predictions of Earth’s future climate – and the impacts of the climate crisis.
Ireland is part of a consortium of several northern European countries that contribute to the IPCC reports by running global climate models that feed into the report’s assessment.
As part of the consortium, Nolan has conducted many centuries worth of global climate simulations using the EC-Earth climate model, which represents the most relevant physical processes that operate in the atmosphere, oceans, land surface and sea ice.
The simulations range from historical data – so the model can be compared to real climate records – to the end of the 21st century, with the aim of providing a comprehensive picture of climate trends and what the future could hold. The ICHEC research is funded and supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, Met Éireann and the Marine Institute in Galway.
“The level of detail and consistency achieved gives confidence in these projections and allows an ever more persuasive evidence-based consensus to emerge that humans are forcing rapid climate change in well-understood ways,” Nolan and O’Brien wrote in the Irish Times this week.
“How to respond to that consensus now is a matter primarily for governments, since they can have the most impact, as well as for individuals.”
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