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Peapod Turns 15

SKOKIE, Ill. - Online grocer Peapod celebrated its 15th anniversary yesterday with company founders Andrew and Thomas Parkinson doing what they did back in 1989 –- delivering groceries.

The deliveries were part of a celebration that will take place through October, during which Peapod will host community, customer, and employee celebrations in all of its markets. "It was a smaller operation then –- we handled all aspects of the job and were barely making payroll," Andrew Parkinson told Progressive Grocer on his way to his first delivery of the day. As part of the celebration, both founding brothers will randomly deliver groceries to customers through the end of October. If one of the brothers delivers the order, it's free.

Founded in 1989 as a "smart shopping option for busy people," Peapod today stands as one of the country's leading Internet grocers, serving 13 U.S. markets including the metro areas of Chicago, Boston, Long Island, and Washington, D.C., and communities in the states of Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island.

The Skokie, Ill.-based company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Ahold in The Netherlands, has made over 6 million deliveries since its inception. "I think that starting up before the Internet really helped us weather the Internet storm," said Andrew. "We became disciplined about how we spent our money from the start, because we had none. When the Internet came along, most companies burned through their money quickly."

The Parkinsons also took their time building the business by focusing on customer needs, something the dot-commers too often failed to do. Fortunately, said Andrew, newer online operations are beginning to do this. "They are paying more attention to the customers and building the business slowly, one city at a time," he said. "This is especially important now, when there are so many people online."

"This is an important milestone for us," said Marc van Gelder, who joined the company as president and c.e.o. in 2000. "These 15 years have chronicled the evolution of a groundbreaking industry that the Parkinson brothers pioneered. We've come a long way to proudly say that Peapod has sweepingly changed the way Americans shop for food."

-- Joseph Tarnowski
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