For local and national services, Indianapolis delivers the goods | Crain's

For local and national services, Indianapolis delivers the goods

Instacart is one of several delivery services that caters to residents in Indianapolis and the surrounding area. | Photo courtesy of Instacart.

Indianapolis is becoming the latest hub for app-based and online delivery service companies, which are expanding here at a surprising rate. And it's not just national companies such as Instacart that are turning their focus on the area: Homegrown companies such as Green Bean Delivery and ClusterTruck are also growing quickly.

“Indianapolis has been experiencing nothing short of a tech boom over the last few years, most notably from companies adopting an innovative approach to everyday tasks," said Ian Nicolini, Indy Chamber's vice president of Indianapolis economic development.

That includes Instacart, a national delivery service that works with retailers such as Kroger, Marsh, Whole Foods and Costco, which expanded into more Indianapolis neighborhoods in April. It has also expanded into several nearby communities.

Residents value time

"Indianapolis is a vibrant and diverse market," said Dave Osborne, Instacart's general manager. "We've seen strong demand not just from the urban areas, but also the suburban areas, many of which were included in our latest expansions."

The San Francisco-based online grocery delivery service promises deliveries in under an hour. The company's goal is to expand service to 150 markets by the end of next year, Fortune reported. In the Midwest, Instacart already serves Evansville, Ind.; Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Chicago and St. Louis.

"When we make expansion decisions, we really look at the organic demand," Osborne said. "Instacart is a perfect solution for a wide range of people, from families with young children to busy professionals. Indianapolis is home to many people like this who are stretched for time and value our service as a result."

One other reason companies like the area: Indiana ranked first among Midwest states for doing business, according to a survey of more than 500 CEOs by Chief Executive magazine, Indy Chamber reported. Survey respondents favored states with friendly tax and regulatory climates, quality workforces and strong living environments, according to the magazine.

That includes the Michigan-based supermarket and department store chain Meijer, which expanded home deliveries in the Indianapolis area in April through Shipt. Orders can also be placed 24 hours in advance.

Closer to home, Indianapolis-based Green Bean Delivery expanded its service in April to apps available for IOS and Android phones. Green Bean, which was founded 10 years ago by Matt Ewer and his wife, Beth Blessing, specializes in delivering locally sourced organic produce and natural groceries to area communities. The company touts the region's largest network of farmers and artisans with organic and sustainable practices.

“We are thrilled to unleash our new app, providing even more convenience for our members to shop online from a full selection of fresh produce and natural groceries,” Ewer, CEO of Green Bean's parent company, Bean LLC, said in a written statement. “As one of the only farm-to-table businesses that offers an app for its members, our goal is to allow those who rely on their mobile devices for everyday tasks to quickly manage their accounts and grocery ordering.”

'Game changer'

More recent to the scene is ClusterTruck, which was founded in 2016 and serves Indianapolis and Bloomington with food and meals delivery. It bills itself as "food truck attitude meets world-changing technology," with food prepared fresh on a food truck that roams the city making deliveries. The extensive menu ranges from salads and sandwiches to wings, pulled pork and tacos. Individuals can place a single order, or join with friends and coworkers to make a group order.

For downtown Indianapolis residents, Cluster Truck is a "game-changer," said Catherine Esselman, real estate director for the nonprofit Downtown Indy, which focuses on development and marketing in the downtown area.

"Downtown Indy is the fastest growing neighborhood in the city of Indianapolis so it’s no wonder high growth businesses have identified this market as a top priority,"  Esselman said. "With more than 30,000 residents in Downtown, there is a wide range of demographics represented, all of which value convenience and time saving opportunities."

That includes daytime workers from the more than 60 tech companies located within a mile of Monument Circle and a growing base of millennial residents, according to Esselman.

"We can’t wait to see what debuts next," she said.

May 14, 2017 - 7:30pm