Instacart to deliver micro-fulfillment in new supply chain initiative

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Instacart plans to join major grocers such as Kroger, Walmart, and Albertsons with a micro-fulfillment strategy.

The on-demand delivery platform is unveiling the first phase of a new next-generation fulfillment initiative, designed to bring automated technology solutions to retailers across the U.S. and Canada. As part of the new initiative, Instacart has signed a multi-year strategic deal with Fabric as a fulfillment automation partner. 

Instacart will pair Fabric software and robotics with its proprietary technology and shoppers to enable a micro-fulfillment process within dedicated warehouses and existing retailer locations. Walmart and Albertsons have been piloting micro-fulfillment, which uses automated bots to retrieve grocery items from a compact storage center for streamlined picking. 

Meanwhile, Kroger is partnering with U.K.-based online grocer Ocado to develop a network of automated micro-fulfillment facilities, known as customer fulfillment centers (CFCs), across the U.S. 

Once Instacart’s micro-fulfillment orders are carefully packed, shoppers will deliver orders to customers’ doors or place them in staging areas for curbside pickup. Grocery items including packaged goods, household essentials, produce to deli items, frozen food, and alcohol will be eligible for micro-fulfillment. Instacart plans to kick off early-stage concept pilots in partnership with Fabric and grocery retail partners over the coming year and beyond. 

“Instacart is proud to serve as the chief ally to retailers during a time when e-commerce in North America is poised for accelerated adoption. Our next-gen fulfillment initiative combines our robust technology suite and dedicated community of shoppers with robotics solutions to give retailers even more innovative ways to compete and serve their customers online. Our next-gen fulfillment work will also help reduce some of the things that make in-store shopping cumbersome for Instacart shoppers, like crowded store aisles, out of stock items and long checkout lines,” said Mark Schaaf, CTO, Instacart. “Over the long-term, we believe partnering with retailers to bring next-gen fulfillment technologies together with the personal touch and care of Instacart’s shopper community will create an even more seamless online grocery experience that’s faster and more affordable for customers and delivers even more value and growth to retailers.”

“Everything about our micro-fulfillment solution has been built for speed, efficiency, and elasticity to meet today’s on-demand requirements,” said Elram Goren, CEO and co-founder of Fabric. “With Instacart as a partner, we see an enormous opportunity to integrate our product and services into Instacart’s ecommerce solutions to provide a compelling service offering for grocers. We’re excited to partner with Instacart as we continue to scale across North America and focus on unlocking more value for retailers and their customers.”