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The New York Times reports on how changing consumer habits during the pandemic have had the greatest impact on the grocery sector.  An excerpt:

"There are few activities that have been upended more than grocery shopping, which had long been analog and resisted the world of online commerce. All that changed in a few short weeks, as people were told to stay home, without their need for food diminishing. According to several surveys, more than a third of all Americans have ordered groceries online for the first time over the last month, and people have spent more ordering groceries online each succeeding week of the crisis.

"The clear winner so far has been Instacart. It was not the biggest going into the crisis, but it has the advantage of working with several grocery chains rather than directly selling products on its own, unlike most of its competitors."

The story notes that "FreshDirect and Peapod have been relatively flat … despite being some of the most established names in the industry. FreshDirect, which is largely focused on New York, talked publicly about its difficulty finding healthy employees. Peapod, meanwhile, made ill-timed cutbacks right before the virus hit.

"The central battle now is most likely between Instacart and the biggest forces in online retailing, Amazon, Walmart and Target, all of which have been investing more heavily in grocery sales. Walmart had the biggest established presence, but it has grown more slowly than Amazon and Target."

KC's View:

Give the Times credit - unlike a lot of media outlets, it understands that Instacart is not a standalone retail entity.

But I still believe that Instacart is a potential competitor to the retailer clients with which it works, and that it has enormous power over those companies at the moment, not to mention enormous influence with and data about their shoppers.