Gorillas and dark stores, the new frontier of distribution

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The Gorillas food delivery app has arrived in Italy. The startup is already active in parts of Milan and plans to reach other Italian cities soon, starting with Turin, Genoa and Rome.

Gorillas and dark store, the new mode of distribution

Gorillas’ promise is to work in partnership with local producers and deliver groceries to your doorstep within 10 minutes of ordering. To do so, it operates through a network of dark stores, that is, warehouses closed to the public, with widespread presence in the areas served by the service.

Delivery is operated by bikers (on bicycles) and costs 1.80 euros.

An advantageous competitive scheme

The organization based on neighborhood dark stores could represent fierce competition against traditional organized retail (supermarkets, hypermarkets), but also toward neighborhood stores.

The benefits are significant, comments our friend food technologist Carmine F. Milone:

1) lower structural costs (since no need for refigerated storefronts or adjustment charges for out-of-business flows)

2) Space optimization (in the absence of sales area, the space is entirely devoted to storage with a higher kg/sqm ratio)

3) Increased safety in the sense of food defense (voluntary contamination by customers)

4) Lower risk of theft

5) Greater ease of management.

The relationship with workers

The relationship with workers employed in food delivery is always a complex, exploitative element. Even for Gorillas, born in Germany, a country with a fair tradition of worker protection, with some exceptions. And looking for different professionals.

Despite its avowedly friendly approach (hiring under contract and respecting diversity, gender, ethnic, etc.), the startup cashed in a few days ago in Berlin on a protest that started with a layoff and then spread to key issues in food delivery work. Poor hourly pay (11.50 euros), probationary period at the maximum allowed (6 months), packages too heavy, poor communication with coordinators, poor bicycle maintenance, etc.

The weakness of foodecommerce

The quality of service will be verifiable later, at least regarding the punctuality of deliveries. What already appears weak is consumer information.

Browsing through the app, it becomes clear that the rules dictated by the Food Information Regulation (EU reg. 1169/11, Article 14) are also systematically violated by Gorillas. As did several other operators, starting with Everli, which we reported on.

Consumer rights ignored

Instead of reporting in readable text the ingredient list, nutrition table and manufacturer’s contact information, the app provides only a few pictures of the packaging. In many cases, reading the mandatory information is impossible.

A final note concerns the variety of offerings. The bio is a rare gem, on the virtual shelves of Gorillas. The references are few, and in fresh it is very common to find foods with Spanish origin (oranges, lemons, blueberries, raspberries, peppers, for example).

Italians’ food preferences

Thinking of growth without catering to Italians’ food preferences may prove illusory. Consumers in the Bel Paese want to consume organic and made in Italy, as the latest Immagino report reiterated. Therefore, it is not a given that the fast delivery element alone will be enough for the success of the app in Italy.

However, the speed of delivery has made inroads in other countries, perhaps less sensitive to these issues. So much so that the newco Gorillas, launched in March 2020 by Turkish entrepreneur Kagan Sümer in Berlin-operating in 18 cities across Germany, the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom-was valued at more than $1 billion within a year of its launch. And it has just raised $290 million in investments.

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".