National grocery delivery service coming to Maui

Instacart to serve Central, South Maui starting Thursday

Maui will soon join the ranks of U.S. cities being served by a major online-based grocery delivery service.

On Thursday, Instacart will begin operations on Maui, serving Central and South Maui, said Joe Benz, a Los Angeles-based operations manager for Instacart.

He said that the move is part of the company’s vision to expand throughout the U.S.

“We wanted to expand to Maui, just to Hawaii in general,” Benz said.

The service also will start on Oahu on Thursday. Maui and Oahu are the only islands where the service has been announced in Hawaii.

Instacart is based in San Francisco with outlets in 39 states, according to its website. It lets people order through a web application from various retailers. A shopper buys and delivers the groceries for the customer that same day.

On Maui, the stores Instacart is working with are Safeway, CVS/Longs, Costco and Foodland, Benz said. He added that the first delivery is free and that there is a $20 coupon code (“Aloha Hawaii”) in connection with the Hawaii launch.

Flat-rate delivery is $5.99, plus the cost of the groceries, he said, adding that there is an optional 10 percent service fee. There also is an Instacart Express membership where customers can pay a $15 monthly or $149 annual fee to avoid per-order delivery costs.

Instacart is the largest grocery delivery service to come to Maui, but there are smaller local companies conducting similar services, one for more than 20 years.

Cathy Roll of Kihei-based South Maui Moving and Storage LLC has been in the delivery business since 1995. Her business does not solely deliver groceries, but she does that, too.

Roll said that she welcomes the challenge of the national online business because it pushes her business and others to provide better customer service. What she has that Instacart does not yet have are repeat customers, including visitors to Maui, she said.

She takes orders by email and phone, offering a personal touch by calling to make sure to purchase exactly what customers want. For example, Roll said she would confirm the type of brie cheese that a customer is seeking because there are different types and prices.

The retired teacher said her fees run from 25 to 30 percent of the grocery bill.

“I like to work with the client as well,” Roll said, adding that it is important to her that she help her customers.

Officials with another local delivery business, Maui Market Delivery, aren’t all that worried about Instacart. Co-owner Bryan Preast, who works with his wife, Lise, said that he thinks the resorts, condominiums and companies they work with are likely to use local companies with which they are familiar.

While it is possible that visitors will use Instacart, 75 percent of Preast’s business comes from direct concierge referrals, who may receive a commission for the referral. He added that he has built relationships with vacation property staffs who are likely to be receptive to him entering the grounds and delivering groceries to rooms.

Preast said that Instacart could take away some of his local business, but most of his customers are visitors.

His company, which has been in business for over a year, charges 30 percent of a store’s receipt subtotal. For orders under $100, there is a flat-rate $30 fee.

Unlike Instacart, Preast said he can go to various stores to shop, including Whole Foods Market in Kahului. He said there are visitors who have selective diets and may want specialty items only found in Kahului but do not want to drive from their West Maui resort.

As for Whole Foods, a spokeswoman said that the Maui Mall location has a free personal shopping service, although 24-hour notice is required.

The company then works with a third-party delivery company to deliver anywhere on the island, said Melissa Kubrin, who handles Whole Foods public relations for the Southern Pacific and Southwest markets.

While the personal shopper is free, the delivery service varies in price, which is typically $30 to $45, Kubrin said.

Whole Foods in Kahului is not affiliated with Instacart at this time, she said.

When online retailer Amazon acquired Whole Foods in late August, price cuts were promised by the buyer.

“With Amazon, we’ve lowered prices on a selection of best-selling grocery staples,” said Kubrin. “This is just the beginning, and we are working hard to continuously lower prices and invent new ways for customers to save.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


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