Food Rocket brings its rapid grocery delivery to Chicago with plans to expand

Dive Brief:

  • Food Rocket, a startup providing grocery delivery within 15 minutes, has opened its first dark store in Chicago, its second market, with plans to expand its presence, according to a press release.
  • After debuting in San Francisco last year, Food Rocket has set ambitious goals for 2022 with plans to launch 160 dark stores in Chicago and in other unspecified parts of the US and also open an office in the Windy City before the end of the year.
  • Food Rocket joins an increasingly competitive landscape for rapid delivery firms in Chicago as quick service for grocery staples and snacks catches across the country.

DiveInsight:

Food Rocket is emerging in the rapid grocery delivery space with ambitious expansion goals as it looks to take on not only other quick-service players but also the likes of larger companies like DoorDash and Amazon Fresh, with its smaller wallet.

Food Rocket announced last year it raised $2 million, TechCrunch reported. In announcing its Chicago launch, the company said it plans to invest more than $15 million in new delivery markets within Chicago and other states, but declined to comment on whether the company currently has $15 million or is seeking it. Food Rocket didn’t say where outside Chicago it plans to expand.

Food Rocket faces an array of well-funded competitors as it looks to expand. Gopuff, for example, has raised more than $3 billion, while Gorillas and getir have each raised more than a billion dollars, according to Coresight Research last fall. Meanwhile, Jokr has raised $170 million, followed by Buyk at $46 million and Fridge No More at $16.9 million, coresight said. Industry observers have questioned the long-term viability of quick-service grocery providers and the model of burning through funding to expand.

Food Rocket says it offers more than 2,000 household items, including oat milk, avocados, eggs and basil, “at the same price as your local grocer” — roughly the same size assortment as other rapid grocery delivery companies. While most rapid delivery services are online-only, Food Rocket has stores that are open for in-person shopping, giving customers the option of either using the delivery service or stopping by themselves. (Gopuff is launching retail locations that also serve as order fulfillment sites.)

In Chicago, Food Rocket is currently serving neighborhoods stretching from West Lakeview in the north to West Town in the south and from Logan Square in the west to Ranch Triangle in the east, according to its website. The startup plans to cover more than 600,000 households in the Windy City with delivery in the West Loop, Gold Coast, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, South Loop and River North neighborhoods.

Already, the Windy City has welcomed several quick-service delivery services, including Getir and Gopuff, and e-grocer Farmstead, which arrived earlier this month. Chicago is also home to Go Grocer, a brick-and-mortar food retailer that launched its own 30-minute delivery last year.

Food Rocket said it considered population density, average annual income and crime rates among the factors for its decision to grow in Chicago. The announcement notes Chicago’s high population density is key to rapid grocery delivery.

Vitaly Alexandrov, CEO and founder of Food Rocket, said the company is working with local producers in Chicago.

Described as a “serial entrepreneur” in Food Rocket’s announcement, Alexandrov previously founded Foody, an end-to-end order management system for foodservice, and Foodcast.ai, which uses technology to reduce food waste in dark kitchens, according to Alexandrov’s LinkedIn profile . Alexandrov also co-founded Out of Cloud, a Russian customer relationship management firm.

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