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Investing  | October 25, 2018

Investors have a big appetite for food delivery companies this year. The Wall Street Journal reports on Pitchbook data revealing that $3.5 billion has been invested in food and grocery delivery startups so far in 2018.

If you follow The Spoon, then this news shouldn’t come as any real shock. We’ve been covering big money deals in this sector all year long. Here’s just a sampling:

  • Instacart raised $200 million in February, then extended that round with an additional $150 million in April and then raised another $600 million in October.
  • DoorDash raised $535 million in March, and then another $250 million in August.
  • Postmates raised $300 million in September.

And those are just pure play delivery services. We aren’t sure exactly how Pitchbook is defining a food delivery company, but there’s also been plenty of investment in services that boost delivery:

  • Ordermark, which provides software and hardware to streamline delivery orders to restaurants raised $3.1 million in March, followed by another $9.5 million in September.
  • Starship and Marble, two companies building delivery robots, raised $25 million and $10 million, respectively.
  • Though never confirmed, it was rumored that Softbank was looking to invest $750 million in data-driven pizza delivery startup Zume back in August.

These types of venture investments also don’t take into consideration the money existing delivery and grocery players are spending to bulk up. Uber Eats will cover 70 percent of the U.S. population by year’s end. Grubhub just bought Tapingo to capture the college food delivery market. Walmart is building out its own delivery service, Amazon has its in-home and in-trunk delivery service, and Kroger is experimenting with self-driving cars for delivery.

And all of the delivery-related investments and moves in this story are just for North America. That doesn’t even take into consideration Europe, where nearly half of the €6.5 billion (~$7.5 billion) invested in food tech since 2013 has gone to food delivery startups.

The WSJ article raises the issue of whether this frothy investment puts delivery in overhyped bubble territory. The paper likens all the excitement to that of the meal kit investment craze a few years back. Meal kits are still around, but they are moving into retail, and it’s probably best if you don’t look at Blue Apron’s stock price.

To be sure, valuations are sky-high for these companies: Uber Eats is valued at $20 billion, Instacart $7.6 billion, DoorDash $4 billion and Postmates at $1.2 billion. That’s a lotta billions.

But the counter-argument to the bubble talk is that there are a lot of hungry people in this country. Even more to the point, there are a lot of hungry busy/lazy people in this country who would love to have their lunch or dinner magically appear, ready-to-eat, multiple nights a week. As the CEO of Ordermark told me, “Convenience is not a trend.”

In other words, investors’ eyes may not be bigger than their stomachs in this case.

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