The 5 Food Delivery Apps Taking a Bite of the Latin American Market

Maria Saldarriaga and Pedro Mejia August 17, 2020
LatAm food delivery
Editorial credit: Gabriel L. Guerrero / Shutterstock.com

Latin America is no stranger to a delivery culture. Mom & Pop shops, pharmacies, restaurants and large grocery chains have offered the service for years. It was not uncommon for these businesses to have their own full time delivery personnel getting products to customers in a quick and reliable manner.

The food delivery industry in LatAm is not a novel concept, the industry has become a giant market in the last decade, valued at $6.5 billion USD. Thanks to factors such as a culture built around immediacy and instant access, a more affordable and accessible workforce (the minimum wage in Latam is approximately US$318/month), the exponential growth of the smartphone market, (in 2019 smartphones accounted for 66 percent of all mobile connections in Latin America), and lately the pandemic, the industry is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Still, it is estimated that there is less than 12% penetration in the region, which means huge opportunities for hungry startups and those already competing in it. Here are the most relevant players tackling the industry today.

Domicilios.com — Colombia

The beginnings of delivery startups in LatAm can be traced back to as early as 2007, when a couple of visionary entrepreneurs in the region saw the opportunity to digitize a service that was in high demand, yet had decentralized and analogue operations.

Founded by Miguel McAllister and Jose Calderon, Domicilios.com broke into the market by creating a digital directory (think old school phone book, but online) with the names of all the restaurants in Bogota, Colombia. They quickly added an online ordering platform that attracted investors and allowed them to cross borders into other LatAm countries.

In 2014, Germany-based Delivery Hero, the largest global food network outside of China, acquired Domicilios.com and Pedidosya.com (their Uruguayan counterpart in the region) and injected much-needed capital for their continued growth in LatAm.

Fun fact: Domicilios.com founders McAllister and Calderon used the momentum from Domicilios to become serial entrepreneurs in the food industry. After the Domicilios.com exit they founded Merqueo, an online grocery store, and MUY, the first restaurant in LatAm to operate with no human to human interaction.

iFood — Brazil

Brazil’s iFood, founded in 2011 and now a subsidiary of tech giant Movile, became one of the biggest players in the Latin American startup ecosystem in 2018 when they raised $500M. In 2019 the Brazilian giant had presence in 912 cities, over 131,000 restaurants registered to their platform and just in November of that year received over 26.6 million orders.

Their operations are mainly focused in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, but are aiming to become the region’s leading delivery service provider. To achieve this, in April 2020 iFood and Domicilios.com announced a merger in an attempt to take on Rappi (more on them next). This will result in iFood holding a 51% equity stake in the partnership, with Delivery Hero holding the remaining 49%.

Fun fact: 26 million hamburgers were ordered through the platform between January and mid-December 2019.

Rappi — Colombia

Rappi is LatAm’s highest funded on-demand delivery startup. With operations in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, México, Perú, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Uruguay, it has the broadest penetration in the region.

The company has gone a step further than simply competing for food delivery. Among their value propositions are “Rappi Favors,” where you can pay a fee for a special request; “Rappi Pay,” a virtual wallet allowing users to pay for external services in app; “Rappi Mall,” providing instant access to thousands of shops; and “Rappi Bets,” allowing users to gamble on sports and casino- like games online directly from the app.

Delivery Hero is also a shareholder in Rappi, having invested $105M in 2018. In April 2019, Rappi received an additional $1B investment from Japan’s Softbank, the single largest investment into a LatAm startup, which resulted in a unicorn valuation of $3.5B.

Fun fact: In 2019, the customer who used Rappi the most completed a total of 1,033 orders throughout the year for an average of 2.8 orders per day.

Glovo — Spain

Glovo was founded in Barcelona in 2015 as an “order anything” app promising users delivery in under 40 minutes. They now operate in 26+ countries across Europe, Africa, Central America, South America and the Middle East. In LatAm they have focused in countries like Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica, where giants like Rappi and iFood don’t have a big presence.

“Our strategy has always been to focus on markets where we can grow and establish ourselves among the top two delivery players,” said Oscar Pierre, the co-founder and CEO of Glovo.

Glovo has received over $513.1M in funding, of which $58M came from Delivery Hero in 2018.

Fun fact: During the pandemic, Glovo and Tinder, the online dating app, joined forces to encourage users to have a virtual date with their match. Users were given credits in the Glovo app to send their date food or drinks.

Cornershop — Chile

Cornershop, founded in 2015, started with $300,000 in capital from its Chilean and Swedish co-founders Daniel Undurraga and Oskar Hjertonsson. They launched in Chile and Mexico simultaneously because the founders believed that dominating only the Chilean market would create a company that couldn’t scale. They took a global approach from the start by creating processes that were “multi-currency, multi-language, and multi-time zone.” The app quickly gained traction and now operates in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Canada. In May of this year they began offering the service in Miami and Dallas as pilot cities in the US.

In early 2019, Walmart had plans to purchase Cornershop for $225M until Mexican antitrust officials blocked the deal, claiming the acquisition would result in an uneven playing field for competitors. However, later in the same year, Uber announced it would pay $459M for the acquisition; the official transaction is still in the works.

Fun fact: Before Cornershop, Oskar and Daniel co-founded Needish, a marketplace for services integrated as a social network. The startup was acquired by Groupon in 2010 and they became the organization's leaders from 2010 until 2012.

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