The tie-up between Coles supermarkets and Uber Eats to quickly deliver ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat meals reflects a major shift in the way we shop and in the way supermarkets are trying to attract customers.

Coles and Uber Eats have been testing meal delivery from one of its stores in Sydney's eastern suburbs for the past few weeks and last week started expanding the offering to more stores and including a handful of essential groceries.

Consumers can go online and order slow cooked pulled beef with BBQ sauce for $19.00 or a small box containing lumps of an extruded chicken-like substance commonly known as chicken nuggets for $3.50. There are also meals that are ready to go in the oven or the microwave, such chicken enchiladas at $8.50 or butter chicken for $9.50.

For a $5 delivery fee, online shoppers can expect their food to arrive at their door in 35 to 40 minutes and settle in for an evening of MasterChef or My Kitchen Rules on the television.


The supermarket is also offering what it calls "Absolute Essentials" which includes milk, juice, bread, salad and cereals, as well as a "Netflix & Chill" range including chocolates, chips and popcorn.

The shift to ready-to-heat or eat meals reflects our changing shopping habits.
Unlike their parents, many consumers don't bother with the weekly meal plan and the big Saturday or Sunday supermarket shop.

Instead, they finish work and wonder what to have for dinner and perhaps go the supermarket on the way home – but they just as likely stop to get a takeaway or home delivery.

It means that – for this segment of the market at least – Coles' competitors aren't just the other supermarkets, but also Domino's Pizza, the local Thai takeaway and the sushi place at the train station.

(Incidentally, exactly who are these "time poor" consumers who retailers and marketers keep talking about? Given they don't seem to do their own cooking, shopping or laundry, and don't even have to get off the couch to go to the DVD store any more, what is making them so time poor? I suspect a lot of them are just lazy.)

Coles and Woolworths have offered online ordering and home delivery for several years, but these options were still centred around the Big Weekly Shop, with all the necessary forethought and planning required from the consumer, not to mention patience to wait for a next day delivery.

They just weren't meeting the needs of the consumer who only wants to think about tonight's dinner – and maybe some milk for tomorrow morning's coffee if they are sufficiently adventurous to make it themselves – and they want it now.

It is part of a broader shift to convenience by supermarkets, where they compete less on low pricing and more on making shopping easier for their customers.


Woolworths and Coles are opening smaller convenience stores with limited ranges in busy commuter areas for the shopper who wants to do pick up a few things for dinner on the way home. Woolworths has also trialled "shop and go" technology that allows customers to scan groceries on their smartphones as they shop and then leave without going through a checkout.

Coles managing director Steven Cain acknowledged the change in shopping habits late last year when he said: "There's a high appetite in Australia to eat out and have takeaway and high demand for good quality food ... a lot of the consumers in Coles 10 years ago were buying groceries once or twice a week, they're now buying fresh food three to four times a week and are very focused on what's for dinner tonight."

He might also have added that catering to this market also provides higher profit margins, because the smaller stores and fast delivery options charge higher prices that the full-sized supermarkets.

Another unicorn

As a rise in the share price of software company Atlassian boosts co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar net worth to more than $10 billion each another Aussie tech startup is also making big strides.

Online do-it-yourself graphic design company Canva has just taken over an eight-story building at the edge of Sydney's CBA and plans to double its staff to 1000 over the next few years.

In just five years the 31-year-old Melanie Perkins and her two co-founders have built a company that is now valued by investors at US$1 billion.

Canva has already been used to design a billion posters, flyers, web pages, resumes, customised company branding and presentations used in 190 countries.

While she says the company hasn't made its mind up about its future plans, Perkins says the private company could go public in the next five years with a listing on the Nasdaq exchange rather than in Australia.

If it does, it will be another one to watch, like Atlassian.