H-E-B has upped the ante in local efforts to make grocery shopping a breeze, or a thing of the past, as it has partnered with Shipt to deliver groceries to the homes of customers all over Greater Waco who place orders using an app that includes a complete listing of available products.

Shipt, which was founded in 2014 and calls itself the fastest-growing online grocery marketplace, served H-E-B in several larger Texas cities before officially launching in Waco this week. It has been hiring shoppers to walk the aisles of the five local H-E-B locations, where they fill baskets then deliver the goods to a sprawling area that includes 14 ZIP codes in Waco, Bellmead, Beverly Hills, China Spring, Elm Mott, Hallsburg, Hewitt, Lacy Lakeview, Lorena, McGregor, Robinson and Woodway.

The service can make home deliveries in about an hour in a pinch, or clients may choose a one-hour delivery window 24 hours or more ahead of time.

“People already are loving it,” Shipt spokeswoman Julie Coop said.

Clients have kept shoppers hopping since the program started Tuesday.

A Shipt membership costs $14.99 per month or $99 for a full year, and a $7 delivery fee is added to orders of less than $35. Orders of more than $35 don’t come with an extra fee, but customers pay a markup on items compared to in-store prices that averages out to about $5 per $35, Coop said.

“We believe customers are more than willing to pay that for the convenience and the reliability of someone we have trained,” she said.

She said Shipt typically hires 300 people when it enters a new market and adds more as demand dictates. The company now has a presence in 31 communities nationwide.

“We are always looking for new and innovative ways to make the grocery shopping experience more convenient for H-E-B shoppers,” H-E-B spokeswoman Leslie Sweet wrote in a press release. “Expanding our partnership with Shipt, that also cares deeply about the communities they serve, was an obvious choice.”

Megan Oliver, 29, a McGregor resident and stay-at-home mother, was among the first in Central Texas to order a bill of groceries through Shipt.

“I bought about $120 worth and I was shocked at how easy and convenient the whole process was,” Oliver said. “They walk you through everything you need to do, step by step, and the items you want to buy are easy to find on the app. You can find the brand and the size and you can keep in touch with the person actually picking up the items.”

Oliver said she received messages from her shopper about products being out of stock and adjusted her list accordingly.

“I dread going to the grocery store. I used to love it, but having a 6-year-old daughter changes things,” Oliver said.

She said the individual who filled her order and delivered it to her home was well-mannered, professional and communicated well in her text messages.

Oliver laughed and said she may save on food costs with help from Shipt, as she and her daughter will not face the temptation of buying items they don’t really need.

“I’ll probably use the service at least two times a month, more if my child is sick and my husband is at work and I don’t want to pop out at all, even to buy a small number of items,” she said. “I think the service will go over very well. I’ve already told my friends and family about it, and their reaction has been positive.”

She said one friend placed an order at 7:30 in the morning and asked that the items be delivered between 1 and 2 in the afternoon.

‘So cool’

“She placed a second order that same day so her husband could see it being delivered,” she said. “She thought it was so cool.”

Tammy Johnson, 42, a teacher at Moody High School who lives in McGregor with her two teenagers and husband, David, said she frequently uses H-E-B’s curbside service that allows customers to pick up groceries ordered online from the Plus! stores on South Valley Mills Drive and on Woodway Drive.

But informed of H-E-B’s new service that brings food to her front door, she laughed and said she may have to give it consideration.

“I pay $4.95 to have my groceries selected and placed in my car, and I’m probably saving $50 a trip because I’m spending less money by sticking to my list,” Johnson said. “But there are times when I’m tired of working and simply do not want to get out of the house. That home delivery sounds tempting.”

Shae Benns, 32, who works in the finance department at the Doris Miller Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, has landed a job as a shopper for Shipt.

“I’ve handled three shopping trips so far,” Benns said Thursday. “I like to shop for groceries myself, and this gives me a way to make extra money.”

She said she is paid $5 for every order she fills, plus 7.5 percent of the customer’s total bill. She also is allowed to accept tips.

“Everybody I’ve shopped for so far has been happy they didn’t have to go to the store and fight the crowds,” she said. “And they’ve been very satisfied.”

Benns said she and other shoppers have a lot of freedom in setting their own schedule. She said she completed a lengthy shopping trip at the H-E-B in Woodway for a delivery to McGregor and another at the H-E-B on North 19th Street for a delivery to China Spring.

“Our app is set up so that we are supposed to shop at the H-E-B location nearest our customer to ensure freshness,” Benns said.

Greater Waco is home to five H-E-B locations: Woodway Drive, North 19th Street, South Valley Mills Drive, Wooded Acres Drive and Bellmead.

H-E-B spokeswoman Tamra Jones said the arrival of Shipt and home delivery will not affect H-E-B’s existing curbside service. Nor is it H-E-B’s first foray into food delivery. In 2014, H-E-B started a national delivery service in the 48 contiguous states, giving fans nationwide a chance to order their favorite products.

Sic’em Delivery started offering delivery of groceries, food from many restaurants and a long list of other items in 2013. It started with the Baylor area and expanded to all of Waco, Woodway and Hewitt.

In 2016, Wal-Mart Stores launched its own version of curbside grocery access locally at Franklin Avenue and New Road and in Bellmead.

The chain is not considering home delivery in Waco at this time, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield said via email.

“Our primary focus is on free pickup because we can leverage Wal-Mart’s physical presence to offer a high-quality experience without charging a service fee or marking up the price of the items like other services,” Hatfield wrote. “We built this service with customers in mind so rather than having to take time out of their life to shop or wait around for an order, they can live their lives. We may explore additional options for delivery in the future, but at the moment we are focused on pickup.”

H-E-B customers who want to know more about the new home delivery service can visit shipt.com/waco.

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