• Boosted by confinement, food e-commerce is becoming a new habit.

  • Several start-ups promise to deliver the groceries in less than 15 minutes, thanks to well-oiled logistics based on “dark stores”.

  • This new market is flourishing, but not all players will necessarily survive.

Between confinements, curfews, and teleworking, the French have become accustomed to staying at home, in front of their screens. Unsurprisingly, orders placed online have therefore exploded in recent months, including for food. According to a study conducted by Nielsen for Fevad (the distance selling federation), sales in food e-commerce climbed 42% in 2020 in France. And beyond the classic online purchases from a restaurant or drive-throughs of major brands, a new niche is developing in France: express grocery delivery.

The principle is simple: the customer buys everyday products (pasta, cheese, toilet paper, etc.) in just a few clicks, and the company takes care of bringing them to his home in less than 10 or 15 minutes. , for a very modest fee (less than 2 euros).

To meet this deadline and these ultra-tight costs, the logistics must be perfect.

This is where the “ 

dark store 

” comes into play.

It is a modest-sized warehouse (200 to 300 square meters), organized like a classic supermarket, with shelves full of products.

Except that the customers are replaced by storekeepers, who prepare the orders and give them to the deliverers.

These serve the delivery area, limited to a radius of 2 or 3 km around the warehouse, in order to be as fast as possible.

Density to achieve profitability

Attracted by the promise of a growing French market, many start-ups are launching into these

dark stores

and ultra-fast delivery.

The specialized site LSA thus counted no less than 23!

Among the latest arrivals, we find Flink, created at the beginning of the year in Germany (“flink” is translated by “fast”).

Landed in Paris a month ago, the start-up has already opened four “stores” in the capital.

“Our goal is to have a

dark store

in each arrondissement by the end of the year.

For the moment, we cover around 700,000 people, ”says Charles d'Harambure, Managing Director France of Flink.

This desire to set up first in the capital is no accident.

In addition to the need for marketing visibility, "this makes it possible to have a very large mass of potential customers due to the urban density, and therefore to be able to be profitable fairly quickly", analyzes Marc Filser, professor at IAE Dijon and specialist of mass distribution.

An average basket of between 20 and 30 euros

The start-ups in the sector obviously want to believe in this enthusiasm for this new ultra-fast delivery service. "We did not expect to have so many customers so quickly", assures Henri Capoul. The co-founder of Cajoo, launched in early 2021 and which already has 18

dark stores

located in several cities, says he is “convinced” that the model “represents the future of consumption”. "It is obvious that the Covid-19 has accelerated the desire to be delivered" adds Baptiste Guez, co-founder of Kol, another start-up in the sector.

So what are those who order through these new apps buying?

“At the beginning, customers test the service with a few products for the evening meal or breakfast,” explains Charles d'Harambure.

Then, when they see that the delivery deadlines are met, they order their weekly groceries.

The average basket is around 20 to 30 euros ”.

"What always works well are eggs, chicken, bananas, or even beers" lists Henri Capoul.

Show your difference

But when talking about the number of orders recorded, several companies suddenly become very timid.

Their favorite phrase?

"We do not communicate on the volume".

The reason for this discretion is simple: many are in their start-up phase and don't have impressive numbers to show.

Instead, start-ups prefer to brag about their strengths, which are supposed to differentiate them from competitors.

“Most of the actors want to cover all the races.

At Kol, we are more on "moments of consumption", such as aperitifs with friends or brunches, with quality products ", assures for example Baptiste Guez.

For its part, Cajoo presents itself as "the only



", a story of playing on the patriotic fiber of the consumer.

And Flink, "at war against uberization", recalls that all his delivery men are employees of the company.

Win or perish

Express delivery companies know it well: eventually, there won't be room for twenty

dark store


. “There is a shallot race. But the reality is that in a year and a half, there will surely not be many people left ”prophesies Baptiste Guez. “The whole challenge is to open enough warehouses, as quickly as possible, to network the cities,” analyzes Henri Capoul. You have to be present first to acquire the most users. In this business, what makes us download your app rather than another is word of mouth ”.

A cockfight that could attract other players in the trade.

“We can very well imagine that distributors (Carrefour, Leclerc…) buy some of these start-ups to expand their offer, believes Marc Filser.

Currently, large-scale distribution is very centralized, it operates with massive purchases.


dark shades

, which operate almost autonomously and small volumes, may provide flexibility to this model. "


In times of crisis, click and collect is gaining more and more followers


Coronavirus: Internet sales reached 112 billion euros in 2020 in France, up 8.5%

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