Global retail specialist Smollan, representing some of the world’s most loved FMCG and commerce brands, looks at the relevance and sustainability of grocery delivery services within the African context – a phenomenon that took off globally during the pandemic.

‘You call we deliver.’ ‘Always at your service.’ ‘On time delivery – from the supermarket to your door.’ The pandemic changed so much in the grocery category as these slogans became familiar rallying cries from supermarkets around the world.


Bringg a delivery logistics platform that services the likes of Walmart and McDonalds in the U.S. brings perspective. In 2019, online grocery sales comprised only 2-4% of total grocery sales in the U.S. Cue a global pandemic and the impact on online grocery delivery was immediate. Fast forward to 2022 with market share increasingly based on a grocer’s online presence and the ability to fulfil last mile services – grocery delivery’s compound annual growth rate in the U.S. is projected to grow by 29% come 2024.


Africa is not getting left behind. In July last year FMCG giant Pick n Pay, one of the largest grocery platforms in sub-Saharan Africa, rebranded its on-demand delivery app, reporting a 600% growth in customers since July with a growth rate of 350% year-on-year. Applecart, FreshSmart and ShapShap have brought the online grocery delivery service concept to doorsteps throughout Nigeria. While Spanish delivery app Glovo, is expanding into Africa investing €25 million in Morocco, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire with its quick delivery grocery service being its fastest growing unit. 


Jumia ‘Africa eCommerce Report 2021’ gives a bird’s eye view that makes for interesting reading. Population 1.3billion with an average age of 20; an economy expected to grow by 3,5% this year; internet penetration of 527M; smartphone adoption estimated to reach 690M by 2025 and one shop for every 67 000 people vs one stop for 1 000 people in the USA – bringing perspective and clarity for a market with enormous challenges as well as huge growth potential for retail penetration.


Kenya with its current population sitting at around 55.7 million [Worldometer] and as the world’s 48th largest country by area, has one of the most vibrant eCommerce ecosystems in Africa. Covid-19  has accelerated the change with grocery delivery services becoming a mainstream offering in urban centres. 79% of Kenyan shoppers have moved online since the pandemic, as revealed in a Mastercard study with speed a major consideration, with 84% of respondents stating that this was a key reason for selecting a business to buy from.


Leading supermarkets such as Chandarana, Quickmart and Naivas have incorporated online grocery delivery services to get quality products to customers quickly and efficiently. So too grocery start-ups have brought a fresh flavour to the online marketplace such as Twiga Foods, GroceryPik founded back in 2017 with key partner ChandaranaKibanda TopupE-Mart and Ayazona who promise to deliver in 30 minutes in key urban areas. Along with the more established Jumia platform that offers perks such as free delivery in Nairobi and Kiambu and international supermarket chain Carrefour, with its 60min delivery offering.


“As online grocery deliveries became a commodity overnight in early 2020, chains that had limited grocery delivery services in Kenya, suddenly had to expand in quality and quantity, speed of delivery and product availability to meet the demands from shoppers. So too, a significant enabler of the eCommerce revolution in Kenya is the success of mobile money platform Mpesa, with at least one individual in 96% of Kenyan households using it,” said Sougata Chatterjee, Smollan Cluster Executive, East Africa. In order to capture market share and keep Kenyan shoppers captivated with online grocery shopping bearing in mind the ability to offer variety, value for money, and efficiency in the delivery space – so to, the shopping experience needs to be a carefully considered driver as to how this will evolve as they ease out of the pandemic and find the sweet spot between online and in-store.


Forecasts suggest that grocery deliveries will become more complex, more automated, and more local. Bringgs brings this into focus highlighting that more grocers, are providing shoppers with a branded delivery app where they can shop for food, track their orders, store their shopping list, and even communicate with grocery staff. To this end, they will need access to the right technology and apps in order to guarantee service is efficient and profitable. This will give grocers the ability to sustain instant service, answering a true pain point for online shoppers who need things quickly such as items like egg, bread, and milk.


Kenya, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa shows a complex market with logistical challenges, a growing middle class, vast differences between have and have nots and informal sectors that operate traditionally. “That said, it’s exciting times for Kenya in terms of innovation, expansion, and growth in this online grocery space. Now it comes down to making this a sustainable solution where convenience and speed, quality, open lines of communication and the right tech to run this efficiently are key drivers,” concluded Chatterjee.