Instacart vs. Mercato: Which Is Better for Grocery Delivery?


Grocery delivery services are all the rage these days. Instacart is the big name in grocery delivery or pickup. But what about Mercato?  Are they as good? So let’s compare – Instacart vs. Mercato.

Here is what I discovered from my research:

Instacart vs. Mercato, Instacart is better overall for grocery delivery. Though their prices and services are similar, Instacart operates in 25% more cities and delivers from almost all of the top grocery chains.  Mercato, by comparison, mostly delivers from local independent grocers.

But that just scratches the surface.

Mercato is up and coming and Instacart is not without its critics (especially from their contracted Shoppers). So the future may be shifting away from Instacart.

Without much ado, let’s dive right in.

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What is Mercato?

Mercato is an online grocery ordering and delivery company. It works with independently owned grocery and specialty food stores compared to large nationwide chains. It currently operates in about 4,000 cities.

Mercato supports grocers and their customers; grocers can outsource the tech-related to ordering and delivery to Mercato, while their customers can order and have their groceries delivered to them.

Independent grocery stores often lack the capacity to design and implement the complex e-commerce processes needed to adapt to the demands of the digital age.

Mercato also helps local grocers attract new customers.

The app offers customers the opportunity to add items (from a single or multiple stores) to their digital cart for in-store pickup or delivered to them. There are options for one-click re-ordering, bonuses for referrals, and a host of recipes and tips.  

One of the company’s objectives is to help people to be able to get a wide variety of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, and food items that have been carefully selected by the independent grocers.

In this way, it helps promote the local economy.

Mercato’s platform has capabilities for customer communication, inventory and price management, product, and pricing analytics. It has a partnership with DoorDash, and it currently serves over 1000 retailers.

It has 100,000 delivery drivers who work with independent grocers. It’s growing rapidly. About 80% of its leads convert to actual customers.  

It was founded by Bobby Brannigan, a tech entrepreneur and investor (who had sold a company for $82 million when he was still in college) in 2015.

The company headquarters are in San Diego, California.

He grew up working in his father’s butcher store in Brooklyn, so he has experience in the industry. His motivation is to provide a platform that’ll make things easy for local grocers and promote the “shop local” concept.

Now that we know a bit about Mercato let’s see how its fees compare to Instacart’s.    

What does Mercato cost compared to Instacart?

Mercato only sells memberships as opposed to charging per delivery. Mercato has 2 plans – the neighborhood plan, which costs $96 per year, and there’s the City plan at $276 per year. Instacart’s membership plan costs $99 per year but you can also get Instacart deliveries for just $3.99 per delivery on orders over $35.

Mercato is rightly described as “Instacart for indie grocers”. So let’s dive into the details of these plans. 

Mercato’s neighborhood plan, which costs $96 per year (that’s $8 per month), covers deliveries within a 3-mile radius from the store.

In comparison, the City plan at $276 per year ($23 per month) covers a 10-mile radius.

There’s a free 30-day trial for both plans. For both plans, you have the option of picking up your groceries yourself or having them delivered to you within an hour or two.

Instacart, on the other hand, is meant for those who want to do regular grocery shopping. You’d be billed $9.99 if you prefer to pay every month. Members get free delivery on orders above $35.

The regular delivery cost depends on the order volume and the time. You’d be charged a slightly higher fee during busy periods. The fee starts at $3.99. And there may be an order minimum before you can be eligible for delivery.

There’s also an additional heavy order fee if you were ordering heavy items.

The app shows this extra charge if it applies to your order. In addition to the delivery fee, it’s vital to note that Instacart charges an average of 23% markup on the products you order.

Is Mercato free?

No, Mercato is not free. It has paid plans. But it does offer free delivery for seniors. For non-seniors, Mercato has two plans. There’s the neighborhood plan, which costs $96 per year (that’s $8 per month), and there’s the City plan at $276 per year ($23 per month).

The first covers deliveries within a 3-mile radius from the store, while the second covers a 10-mile radius.

There’s a free 30-day trial for both plans. For both plans, you have the option of picking up your groceries yourself or having them delivered to you within an hour or two.

What of EBT cards?

Does either service accept it? There’s no indication on Mercato’s website about payment methods. In fact, overall, I find their website lite on information.

But for Instacart, I get into EBT in a recent article of mine to address the question. Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does Mercato deliver from as many stores as Instacart?

No, Mercato doesn’t deliver from as many stores as Instacart. Mercato operates in 4000 cities in the US, compared to 5000 cities for Instacart.

For now, Instacart works with national and regional retailers.

It’s present in 5000 cities in the U.S and Canada, while Mercato is present in 4000 cities, through its partnership with DoorDash, in the U.S. and Canada.

The difference in the number of stores they deliver from is understandable when you consider that Mercato is focused on independent grocers, while Instacart’s forte is the big chains and the fact that Mercato was founded a few years after Instacart. The latter has a “first-mover advantage.”

Of course, the number of stores both platforms deliver from grows from time to time, as one would expect.

Seeing as both platforms are not yet delivering from every store or place in the U.S. and Canada. Instacart hints at this on its website where it advised that interested folks check regularly, to track the new stores it’s delivering from.

Consider that Mercato is growing at an average of 50 new stores per day. It’s only a question of time when it’ll be able to deliver from as many or even more stores than Instacart.

The latter, too, is not slowing down.

For example, one of the cbinsights.com research briefs shows that as of August 2020, Instacart would start handling delivery to 1600 stores owned by Kroger.

Aldi also announced that Instacart would deliver to more of its stores all over the country, by thanksgiving 2020.

What grocery delivery service is best, Mercato or Instacart?

Instacart is better than Mercato when we compare service areas, pricing, and the number of large grocery chains they work with. The primary way Mercato is better is for those customers looking to support smaller, local grocery chains.

It’s not surprising Instacart is older and bigger.

You might be wondering on what criteria was my answer based. On a host of factors such as the following:

  • The number of discounts and promotions available
  • Number of stores the platform works with
  • Geographical coverage (Instacart is available in 5000 cities, Mercato 4000).
  • The quality of their respective mobile applications
  • Delivery times
  • Sales and promotions
  • Apple pay support
  • Delivery minimums
  • Delivery fees
  • Additional services fees
  • Number of shoppers/delivery drivers (Instacart 130,000, Mercato 100,000)

Despite what I shared above, I must say that Mercato’s growth is highly impressive.

On a lighter note, you may be wondering if Instacart delivers ice creams.

Believe me, I found out if they did, and even wrote in detail about it. You can find the answer in a recent article of mine.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about whether Instacart or Mercato is better for food delivery?

We covered a lot in the article.

I shared details about what Mercato is, why it was founded, when, and it’s unique offerings. I also compared its cost to Instacart’s. And, I told you which platform is the best, based on some key criteria. Instacart is better.

This is not surprising at all, seeing as it’s older and more experienced (three years older than Mercato). It has better brand recognition, too.

Instacart also has more capital as its disposal.

The core team of delivery drivers is known as shoppers in Instacart parlance. It has about 30,000 more than Mercato.

If you’ve ever wondered if these shoppers secretly rate customers they serve, and if a person could be banned from using the platform, I’ve got you covered in a recent article of mine, where I share the answers and other interesting details. 

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Ready to get started ordering from Instacart?

Just CLICK HERE!

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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