Walmart tests the online food delivery market

Consumer Reports News: April 25, 2011 06:19 PM

Leave it to Walmart to send shudders down the supermarket aisles, even the virtual aisles. Already in command of 33 percent of the U.S. grocery market, the behemoth retailer is throwing its weight behind a test of an online grocery delivery service called Walmart-to-Go in the San Jose area. If it’s a go, Walmart will have to overcome challenges that have thwarted similar services.

Typically, shoppers visit Walmart to stock up on items but do their day-to-day food shopping elsewhere, according to the New York Times. Offering groceries online could help solve this problem. Still, online shopping may not appeal to those who like to squeeze the Charmin, buy fruit by the piece or ask the butcher for a special cut of meat.

And getting the groceries to your home before the ice cream melts and the meat cools down has been an ongoing challenge for all food delivery services. To begin with, Walmart will use its own refrigerated trucks but if the service takes off, it’ll have to consider adding to its fleet or contracting the job out. Then there’s the issue of today’s rising gas prices, which could put the $5 delivery charge in jeopardy.

Walmart will charge the same price online as it does in its stores and they are competitive, according to the New York Times. A 64-ounce carton of Horizon milk was $3.50 on Walmart’s site, $3.99 from Peapod and $4.29 on Fresh Direct. Sixteen ounces of celery at Walmart-to-Go was $1.98, $3.29 at Peapod and $3.49 and at Fresh Direct.

In Consumer Reports tests we found that some of Walmart’s store brands are worth throwing in the cart, virtual or otherwise. The retailer’s Great Value Original potato chips tied with Lay’s Classic chips in our taste tests of national and store brands. And the Great Value Original Barbecue Sauce tied with four others in our recent test of barbecue sauces. Great Value 2X Ultra ranked in the middle of our laundry detergent Ratings as did its store brand powdered dishwasher detergent. How Walmart does in its latest endeavor, we can’t wait to see.

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