Instacart is the biggest player on the grocery delivery scene, but it isn’t the only one, and in fact, it wasn’t even there first.
One of the earlier options for skipping the grocery store and having fresh produce, meats and other items brought right to your front door is FreshDirect.
What is FreshDirect and what’s the difference between Instacart and FreshDirect? I’ve got what you need to know below.
What’s The Difference Between Instacart And FreshDirect In 2023?
Instacart and FreshDirect both delivery groceries to their customers’ front doors, but the former has a much wider coverage area, with an emphasis on 1-2 hour delivery times. FreshDirect is known for its much more limited coverage area in major metropolitan cities, with delivery times up to two days.
Let’s dive deeper into how FreshDirect and Instacart are different, as well as how they’re similar, who is behind FreshDirect’s corporate operations, which delivery service is more expensive and which is faster and much, much more. Keep reading!
Is FreshDirect Like Instacart?
FreshDirect and Instacart do have a number of similarities, starting with their purpose.
Both deliver groceries to their customers’ front doors, albeit within different time parameters (as I will cover in the next session).
Let’s look at some other ways FreshDirect is like Instacart:
- Both allow their customers to order online, either through their website or via the mobile app.
- Both have subscription service, where you pay an annual fee (or monthly, too, in Instacart’s case) and get free unlimited delivery
- Both services allow customers to schedule their deliveries in advance
- Both cover major metropolitan cities in the U.S.
- Both are (unfortunately) more expensive than grocery shopping in-store
Those are some of the main ways the two services are alike, but as you will see in the next section, the divide is a lot bigger.
How Are Instacart And FreshDirect Different?
FreshDirect and Instacart may seem alike on paper, but once you take a closer look, there are many differences. Let’s break down some of the bigger ones.
- FreshDirect is actually much older than Instacart; Instacart is a relative newb from 2012, while FreshDirect has been operational since 1999
- FreshDirect’s service area is much, much smaller than Instacart’s; FreshDirect services the NYC metropolitan area and other major cities in the mid-Atlantic region
- FreshDirect’s focus is mostly perishables, like fresh produce, meats and dairy, while Instacart’s retailer partners sell a wide variety of groceries and merchandise
- FreshDirect’s food comes, you guess it, direct from farms, while Instacart’s deliveries come from brick-and-mortar stores local to the customer
- Because their food comes direct from farmers, FreshDirect offers the best in seasonal produce
- FreshDirect is more expensive than Instacart; delivery fees start at $5.99, versus $3.99 for Instacart
- While some customers can get FreshDirect delivered the same day, many will have to wait a day or two; Instacart shops local stores, so deliveries can come within an hour
Is FreshDirect Owned By Amazon?
FreshDirect is not owned by Amazon, who has their own grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh.
Rather, FreshDirect is under the parent company Ahold Delhaize USA, along with Stop & Shop, Food Lion (who is actually on Instacart) and Giant/Martin’s.
FreshDirect’s acquisition by Ahold Delhaize USA is actually fairly recent, having been reported in January 2021.
FreshDirect was founded in 1999 by Joe Fedele, a former CEO for Fairway Market, and Jason Ackerman, an investment banker.
The company set up operations in NYC in 2002, and while many of us outside the NYC metropolitan area might balk at the prices, FreshDirect was actually more affordable there.
FreshDirect has undergone major changes in leadership over the years.
But perhaps its most exciting development was the 2014 establishment of a 500,000 square foot distribution hub in the Bronx, out of which operations still continue today.
Is FreshDirect More Expensive Than Instacart?
FreshDirect is more expensive than Instacart, and it is certainly more expensive than in-store grocery shopping.
It’s not just the cost of the individual items, either, which are actually not terribly far off each other, when comparing items in the NYC metropolitan area.
The cost of using the service – which is free to access – really adds up with FreshDirect.
- FreshDirect delivery: $5.99 to as much as $15.99; Instacart delivery: $3.99 to $9.99
- FreshDirect subscription (free delivery): $129/yr.; Instacart Express: $99/yr. (with the option for monthly payments of $10, which you can cancel at any time)
- FreshDirect minimum order: $30; Instacart: $10
Let’s take a look at how individual items are priced and whether there is any significant difference between FreshDirect and Instacart.
Bananas on both sites, a bunch from Aldi and a bunch from FreshDirect, sell for 49 cents per pound.
A pound of organic ground beef from FreshDirect will set you back $11.99, but it is much cheaper on Instacart (Aldi) at $6/lb.
Aldi Instacart organic eggs cost $3.09, while FreshDirect’s cost $3.99 for the dozen.
Organic spinach on Aldi Instacart comes to $3.09, but FreshDirect sells it for $2.99, and when I checked their site, they were running a deal: two for $5.
So paying more for FreshDirect doesn’t always come from filling your grocery cart, and if you value the farm-to-table ethos, the extra in delivery is likely worth it.
Which Is Faster FreshDirect Or Instacart?
Depending on where you live, FreshDirect could be faster than Instacart.
If you live in NYC, for example, where FreshDirect’s distribution hub is located (in the Bronx), you could likely receive your delivery within an hour of placing the order.
However, while that population is by no means small, it pales in comparison to the number of Instacart customers who could receive their groceries in an hour.
So for most people, which would be pretty much anyone outside of the NYC metropolitan area, Instacart is faster, with Priority delivery in as little as an hour.
Two hours is more the norm, though, if you don’t want to pay extra for a faster experience.
If you live outside of FreshDirect’s immediate area, you’ll schedule a day to a week out.
How Many Customers Does FreshDirect Have?
FreshDirect hasn’t released any formal numbers regarding customers, but their CEO did theorize that they would deliver to 100,000 households per month.
Let’s look at market shares. Instacart held the majority of the grocery delivery market share, with 45 percent in June 2021.
In contrast, FreshDirect only held one percent of that market during the same month.
To learn more, you can also read our posts on Instacart Peak boost, Walmart Instacart, and is Instacart cheaper.
FreshDirect and Instacart share some surface-level similarities, but the two companies operate in fundamentally different ways.
FreshDirect is a go-to for many major city-dwellers, especially those close to Bronx-based distribution center, while Instacart’s customers are spread out all across North America.