Instacart valued at $7.6 billion in crowded grocery delivery market

The grocery-delivery service Instacart said Tuesday it has raised $600 million in fresh capital, bringing its valuation to $7.6 billion.

Led by the hedge fund D1 Capital — which was one of the largest hedge fund launches of 2018 — the investment reflects confidence that Instacart can compete in an increasingly competitive grocery delivery market as consumer trips to brick-and-mortar storefronts decline. 

Instacart, which launched in 2012 and is not yet profitable, has attracted investor demand because of its positioning as the linchpin between national grocery store chains and online, same-day delivery. Instacart has partnerships with 15,000 U.S.stores, including Kroger, Aldi, Sam’s Club, Publix, Costco and Albertson’s. Its ability to get groceries to customers the same day they’re ordered makes it a rare worthy competitor to Amazon.

Apoorva Mehta, CEO and founder of Instacart, said he expects one-in-five of U.S. grocery shoppers will purchase food online within the next five years. 

“The U.S. is nearly a $1 trillion grocery market, and last year we saw almost every major grocer in North America bring their delivery business online in a significant way,” Mehta said in a statement. “We believe we’re in the very early stages of a massive shift in the way people buy groceries.”

The company faces no shortage of competition. Amazon has rolled out its Whole Foods delivery service to 48 cities across the U.S., and both Target and Walmart are pitching similar plays of their own, with Walmart offering store-to-door grocery delivery with a $30 minimum, and Target increasing its grocery business under its Shipt delivery service. Other online competitors, like FreshDirect and Peapod, haven’t built up the same physical retail partnerships with groceries as a launchpad to scale.

A source familiar with the deal said Instacart now employs some 600 people, and it has plans for rapid growth with the new capital injection. The company is planning to double its engineering talent by the end of 2019 in an effort to speed up its delivery.

Instacart also plans to hire about 300 employees focused on customer engagement in Atlanta over the next several years, plus 200 in Toronto to expand its growing Canadian business. The grocery delivery service in September announced a partnership with Walmart Canada to provide same-day grocery delivery service in Toronto and Winnipeg.

Helmed by hedge fund veteran Dan Sundheim, who previously served as chief investment officer at Viking Global Investors, the investment in Instacart is one of the firm’s largest to date. 

“Grocery is the largest category within U.S. retail and it is also one of the least penetrated online,” Sundheim said in a statement. “The industry is at a tipping point and there will likely be a significant acceleration in the adoption of online ordering for grocery delivery over the next few years.”

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