UBER

An Uber Eats delivery courier rides an electric bicycle through the Brooklyn borough of New York on March 26, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Amir Hamja

On Monday, Uber Eats introduced a new delivery category: “Babies and Kids,” for parents in need of emergency diapers and thermometers.

It is the latest in a series of new verticals launched by Uber Technologies Inc. during the pandemic, including the delivery of groceries, prescriptions, alcohol and flowers.

Uber is partnering with national brands including buybuy BABY and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. They are also creating exclusive partnerships with direct-to-consumer companies, like organic baby food brand Yumi.

From June to August, there were more than 20,000 searches for baby supplies on the Uber Eats app including diapers, baby food, and wipes, according to Beryl Sanders, head of partnership for new verticals for the U.S. and Canada for Uber Eats. “We were hearing it internally, too, from a lot of new parents,” Sanders says in a phone interview. “There is often in parenting an immediate need for a product. If your baby is running a fever, you need that thermometer.”

The online baby product industry will generate $9.9 billion in revenue in 2021, according to Ibis World Inc.

Sanders wouldn’t comment on the specific amount of money the company has dedicated to the category, except to say that a $200,000 donation to Baby2Baby, which provides necessities to children living in poverty, was Uber’s primary investment in the project.

The hub enters a field dominated broadly by Amazon.com Inc. and other established grocery delivery services such as Instacart Inc and FreshDirect.

“It’s going to be useful to the diapering world,” says Conz Petri, parenting and health editor at the online news site Insider. “It does solve an actual issue.”

She doubts it will help a key demographic: parents who don’t have the cash to pay Uber Eats fees. “Uber Eats [typically] comes at a higher price; there’s so many fees,” Petri notes. “Does it exclude a lot of parents who actually need the service?”

Saunders says delivery charges will be the same as for restaurants on the platform, which typically range from $1 to $5, and that products will represent a wide range of options, including ones from such national chains as Walgreens and CVS.

She sees Uber Eats as being able to respond faster than competitors like Instacart. “You have an expectation that you’ll get it at a certain time, in two hours. Uber Eats has been built on next-hour delivery. In these cases, parents can’t wait,” says Saunders. Availability from such partners as Honest and Little Spoon will vary depending on where customers live.

Despite the internal enthusiasm for Baby and Kids, Saunders says it’s not a major player in the company’s delivery business, which reported $12.9 billion in the second quarter; the company reports third quarter results on November 4. “We see grocery, convenience, and alcohol delivery as core to our new verticals. Baby and Kids is a surprise product.” She says it’s also indicative of other upcoming categories. “We’re trying to listen to the need of consumers. We’re planning more surprises, focused on internal excitement and how many searches we see in the app. So you can get anything in 2022.”

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