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From Milkman to Refrigerated Truck: How Food Gets Delivered to Today’s Shoppers

It used to be that the majority of Americans had their milk delivered straight to their front doors. Every day, the milkman would place bottles of milk in a “milk chute” that had a small cabinet with a door on the outside.

As time went on though, sightings of the ever-famous milkman became far and few between. In fact, fast-forward to 2005 where only about 0.4% of consumers had their milk delivered to their front door, according to Wikipedia.

Long live the milkman, right?


The traditional milkman who traveled by horse-and-buggy now exists in the form of home-delivery services that deliver more than just milk. Think pizza, weight-loss meals, and yes, even groceries.

For example, internet grocers like FreshDirect and ShopRite offer to-your-door deliveries with the click of a button (on your computer or smartphone). With your order comes recipe ideas, competitive pricing and more importantly, convenience.

Relay Foods, an online grocer for sustainable products, rolled out “Drop Spots,” allowing Washington, D.C.-area apartment buildings to provide residents with free concierge grocery delivery.

Peapod, LLC, Skokie, Ill., one of the pioneers of the online grocery trend, is piloting pick-up sites, where shoppers can order online and pick up their order on their way to and from work or school.

“From home delivery to virtual grocery stores in Chicago train stations to this new pick-up option, Peapod has become a lifestyle solution that saves both time and money,” says Andrew Parkinson, president and general manager.

Next year, shoppers in the New York City area can take advantage of’s Amazon Fresh program. Promised to provide same-day and next-day delivery, experts say this move could allow to tap into the U.S. consumer packaged goods market.

Frozen foods giant Schwan’s Home Service, Marshall, Minn., delivers more than 350 products delivered straight to customers’ front doors.

And, ordering from 5 Star Home Foods gets customers a specialist who helps build a meal plan for you and your family and then stocks your freezer with each order.

Even restaurants are spreading their wings to take advantage of the online market. Goldbely, a San Francisco-based website, is re-thinking restaurant delivery by shipping iconic local favorites from beloved restaurants to customers across the country.

 Milk processors such as Oberweis Dairy, North Aurora, Ill., and Thatcher Farm, Milton, Mass., still deliver milk to customers’ front door, but don’t be looking for the actual milkman to be walking up and down your street any time soon. Today’s milkman comes in the form of a refrigerated truck filled with frozen or chilled packaged goods.  

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