The Web retailer quietly began taking orders for fresh produce and other grocery items Wednesday from residents of Mercer Island, a Seattle suburb, and dispatched a fleet of 12 delivery trucks from its grocery distribution center in Bellevue to deliver those alfalfa sprouts and acorn squash in one-hour time slots.
Craig Berman, an Amazon spokesman, said the company is working with local wholesalers and farmers and aiming to have inventory sit in the warehouse for less than 24 hours.
The new Web site, http://fresh.amazon.com, was first available to a small number of Amazon grocery customers on Mercer Island who were invited by e-mail to help test the business. Web surfers can visit the site and type in their address to see if AmazonFresh is available in their neighborhood.
The selection includes organic, kosher, wheat-free and other specialty categories, but not books, music or sporting goods, and the shopping cart and checkout process are completely separate from the main Amazon.com site.
Mercer Island customers can even order groceries for early morning delivery, and AmazonFresh drivers will leave the food in a reusable, insulated tote on the doorstep by 6 a.m. The company also plans to open grocery pickup locations in Bellevue and Kirkland, suburbs to the east of Seattle.
Berman said Amazon is starting very small, and that there’s no telling whether the company will expand the program.