How Amazon Fresh Works

Amazon's grocery delivery service offers convenience and savings

Amazon Fresh is a grocery delivery service available to Amazon Prime members in select cities. Launched in Seattle in 2007, the service has expanded to major cities throughout the United States and select cities worldwide. Customers can choose from thousands of items, including produce, meat, seafood, snacks, and household essentials.

Key Takeaways

  • Amazon Fresh is a grocery delivery service available to Amazon Prime members in major cities throughout the United States and certain cities worldwide.
  • Members receive free two-hour grocery delivery on Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market orders that meet the minimum purchase threshold.
  • Amazon Fresh also has physical locations in which shoppers leverage Just Walk Out technology allowing people to avoid traditional check-out lines.
  • Amazon Fresh is free to eligible Prime members in the United States.
  • Fresh Direct and Instacart are two competitors of Amazon Fresh.

Understanding Amazon Fresh

Customers sign in to their Amazon Prime account or use the Fresh app to start shopping. They can choose unattended or attended delivery, and also designate a delivery time slot. With attended delivery, groceries are delivered in plastic bags and someone must be there to receive them. Unattended deliveries are dropped off at the customer's doorstep in temperature-controlled tote bags.

Individuals can also use Alexa—Amazon's cloud-based voice service—to help with their shopping. Users can verbally tell Alexa to add whatever they'd like to order to their Fresh cart. According to Amazon, the more you use Alexa to order your groceries the more helpful the system will become as it learns your preferences.

Last, customers can visit physical Amazon Fresh stores in select physical locations. The Amazon Dash Cart allows users to scan a QR code to sign in and begin shopping. Items placed in the cart are tracked, and payment is processed when you exit through the Amazon Dash Cart lane.

Amazon Fresh's Impact on Grocery Shopping

Amazon Fresh is not a new development—it was already up and running years before the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay home and need grocery delivery services. Since that time, many people have found it more convenient to shop for their groceries online and have them delivered.

Assistant Integration

Alexa integration enhances the shopping experience. First, customers can have the digital assistant's help in forming their list or obtaining information about products such as customer reviews. This type of technology integrates software applications with hardware devices levering the Internet of Things.

Alexa can save recipes and integrate ingredients into your lists. Then, as you shop for goods, you can obtain additional product information, obtain ingredient information, or have assistance findings goods in a physical store.

Grocery Lists

Historically, individuals would make static grocery lists using pen and paper. Now, you can interact with Alexa to help form your grocery list. Smart technology may also detect when you are low or out of specific goods. Then, you can interact with the Amazon app to review and go through the products, obtaining information about each good in advance of buying it.

Product Kiosks

Traditional grocery stores display large signage above each aisle to inform customers where certain products are at. At Amazon Fresh stores, customers can find Alexa kiosks located around the store to directly search for and obtain information on what aisle the goods are in. Often, grocery store retailers that do not own their own storefront must perform leasehold improvements to build out this signage.

Check-Out Process

The in-person shopping experience ends with individuals simply walking out of the store. Amazon Fresh has revolutionized the check-out process, no longer necessitating standing in long queues or interacting with another human as part of the exiting process.

Product Offering

With the acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh now offers over 500,000 products from different brands. Ranging from organic, seasonal, and fresh goods, individuals truly can often have a one-stop shopping experience. This has revolutionized consumable shopping compared to traditional grocery stores with product quantity limitations based on the square footage of the store.

200 million

There were 200 million paying Amazon Prime members worldwide as of 2021. 153 million of these members were in the U.S. alone.

Amazon Fresh's Impact on Labor Markets

On the surface, Amazon's Just Walk Out technology will disrupt labor markets by no longer needing checkout lanes monitored by grocery store checkers. As customers simply "walk out" of the store to be billed upon their departure, Amazon Fresh store shave no need for product scanners. Customers also integrate their payment method to the Amazon app; there is no need to interact with a human to pay for the groceries.

On the other hand, Amazon Fresh introduces a new set of employment needs. Technicians must ensure the cameras on the ceilings and weight sensors on the shelves are working appropriately. Data scientists continue to push the envelope on the analytical capabilities of Alexa. Amazon Fresh grocery delivery shifts the labor from being a checker to being a puller that delivers the goods to the customer.

Even then, as Amazon experiments with equipment, drone, and automated selection and delivery services, workers will continue to be displaced as innovated solutions will warrant new, modern roles. Just as ATM proliferation impacted the banking industry, many financial professionals still retained their jobs (even though many roles have been directly impacted).

Amazon Fresh and Prices

Amazon's primary flagship store has built a reputation for having a wide variety of household products available for cheaper prices than many of its competitors. The company strives to have Amazon Fresh have a similar business model specifically geared towards consumable, food and beverage products.

There are several ways consumers can receive favorable prices when shopping at Amazon Fresh. Consumers can earn 5% back when paying with their Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature credit card. Consumers can also decide whether or not leave an optional tip. In addition, anecdotal shopping trips that detail the items purchased are similar to other grocery stores.

Where Does Amazon Fresh Deliver?

Amazon Fresh is available to Prime members in 42 cities across eight states and Washington D.C.: California, Illinois, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and New Jersey. Amazon Fresh has 18 stores in California, while it has multiple locations in Seattle. Amazon Fresh is also available in cities throughout the European Union: the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

Amazon Fresh should not be confused with the Grocery and Gourmet Foods section of Although it often carries the same or similar items, the latter represents a variety of different sellers, and buying goods on it is like any Amazon purchase. Delivery times will vary, and some vendors offer free shipping to Prime members, while others don't.

How Much Does Amazon Fresh Cost?

On Oct. 29, 2019, Amazon announced that Amazon Fresh would be free for Prime members in eligible regions of the United States. Prior to the change, Fresh cost $14.99 per month on top of the Prime membership fee.

In addition to eliminating the Fresh monthly membership fee in the U.S., Amazon combined the ordering sites for Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain it acquired in 2017. Prime members also receive free delivery when ordering from Whole Foods.

In Germany, Prime members still have an additional monthly membership fee to use Fresh. However, in October 2019, Amazon reduced the fee for Fresh in Germany from 9.99 euros to 7.99 euros per month. For orders worth less than 40 euros, the delivery fee went from 5.99 euros to 3.99 euros. Prime members in Germany who don't want to sign up for a monthly Fresh membership can still use the service for 5.99 euros per delivery.

Amazon Go, an entirely separate Amazon business, offers fast food options with no lines and no traditional check-out processes. Amazon Go is different than Amazon Fresh and is offered only in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.

Amazon Fresh Competition

Amazon isn't the first company to dream up a fast grocery delivery service. Companies like Webvan and HomeGrocer started delivering food to hungry customers in the mid-1990s. While both of those companies are defunct, the demand for home delivery of groceries never truly faded. In fact, most brick-and-mortar supermarket chains, like Stop & Shop and Giant Foods, offer e-commerce and delivery services to their customers, while many other internet grocery businesses have emerged over the years.

Fresh Direct

Founded in 1999, Fresh Direct serves customers in New York City and surrounding areas, a number of counties in New Jersey, the greater Philadelphia area, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. A minimum of $30 is required for all orders. Those in the five NYC boroughs are charged a $5.99 delivery fee. Delivery fees range from $6.99 to $7.99 for people outside these areas. The service also delivers to the Jersey Shore and the Hamptons in the summer season with a $9.99 and $15.99 delivery fee respectively.


You can shop using Instacart if you live in about 5,500 cities in the United States and Canada. The company, founded in 2012, is based in San Francisco and is partnered with more than 40,000 retail and grocery stores. Personal shoppers fulfill and deliver orders within your requested time frame.

The first order is always free. You can choose to sign up for Instacart Express, which costs $99 for the full year or $9.99 a month. This option allows you to receive free delivery for orders over $35. Nonmembers pay a $3.99-minimum for orders over $35.

How Does Amazon Fresh Work?

Amazon Fresh works by allowing customers a modern grocery shopping experience. Grocery delivery works by submitting an order and placing a designated time frame for specific locations. In-store shopping entails placing grocery bags in your car, signing in using the Fresh QR code, and exiting through the dash cart lane.

Is Amazon Fresh Free for Prime Members?

Amazon Fresh is to all Amazon Prime members, including free same-day delivery and pick-up from local Amazon Fresh stores.

How Do I Know If Amazon Fresh Is Available?

Users can sign into their Amazon account and enter their zip code on the delivery page of Amazon Fresh within the Amazon app. The user interface will notify the user whether Amazon Fresh is eligible for the specific region.

Can Amazon Fresh Items Be Returned?

Yes, Amazon offers a refund for items purchased within the past 30 days if the customer is not satisfied with the condition of their grocery purchase. Amazon also states that should the item be damaged or unusable, Amazon will refund the product and not ask you to refund the item.

The Bottom Line

With an impressive infrastructure already established throughout America and same-day delivery available in certain markets, it seemed inevitable that Amazon would enter the grocery market. As long as Amazon Fresh has a record of good customer service and the backing of Amazon’s money, it's likely to be around for a long time.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Amazon. "About Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market on Amazon Deliveries and Pickup."

  2. Amazon. "Grocery Shopping Is Easier With Alexa."

  3. Amazon Shareholders Letter. "To Our Shareowners."

  4. Digital Commerce 360. "Prime Membership and Broad Selection Drive Sales for Amazon."

  5. Amazon. "What Is Amazon Fresh?"

  6. CNET. "Is Grocery Shopping Online Cheaper Than at the Store?"

  7. Amazon. "Amazon Pysical Store Locations."

  8. Amazon. "Amazon Fresh Is Now Free With Prime."

  9. Reuters. "Amazon Trims Fresh Grocery Delivery Charges in Germany."

  10. Fresh Direct. "FAQ - Delivery & Order Issues."

  11. Instacart. "Order Groceries for Delivery or Pickup Today."

  12. Instacart. "Instacart Express."

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.