By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
December 15, 2016
SALISBURY – “It’s the kind of marketing of alcoholic beverages that fails to recognize fundamental principles for protecting the public’s health. It is either ignorant of alcohol’s inherent problematic nature under certain circumstances or it dismisses this knowledge in pursuit of profit,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
Creech was talking about an announcement last week by Food Lion to add beer and wine delivery in places it already offers home delivery services – a service the grocery chain provides in partnership with Instacart.
Instacart, founded in San Francisco in 2012, is a company that partners with retailers, and popular national chain stores, as well as some local and regional grocers, to provide home delivery services. Food Lion has been working with Instacart to deliver groceries to homes since May of this year.
According to a statement released to the press, Neil Norman, director of customer loyalty at Food Lion, said the “program has had a great reception since it launched.” He added, “Now with the additional options of beer and wine, Food Lion continues to deliver on” their commitment “to making grocery shopping easy and convenient.”
The grocery giant is testing the program for ordering beer and wine in 57 Zip codes in the Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham areas.
Customers only need to visit www.foodlion.com/homedelivery or open an Instacart mobile app on their iPhone or Android device, enter their Zip code and Food Lion store, add items to a virtual cart, and then choose a delivery window (within one hour, within two hours, or some scheduled time in the future) and check out.
An Instacart Personal Shopper accepts the order on his/her smartphone, uses the Instacart shopper app to guide them through shopping, and then delivers the order to the customer in the designated delivery timeframe.
Customers ordering alcohol on Instacart are required to provide their date of birth during the online checkout process to confirm they are 21 or older. Additionally, a recipient 21 or older must be present to sign for the delivery and show proof of legal age with a valid photo ID.
But Creech says the new service offered by Food Lion is fraught with dangers, especially for underage drinkers. He cites a December 2015 report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking, which says, “The University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program notes that home delivery of alcohol may increase alcohol availability to youth by increasing opportunities for underage persons to subvert minimum age purchase requirements.”
The report goes on to argue that allowing patrons to order by phone, fax or online “may facilitate deception.”
“Delivery persons may have less incentive to check purchasers’ age identification when they are away from the licensed establishment and cannot be watched by a surveillance camera, the liquor store’s [alcohol outlet’s] management, or other customers,” says the report.
“There isn’t a lot of research on home delivery,” said Creech. “There was one study that examined the use of home delivery by men and revealed regular drinkers who have no history of alcohol problems were less likely to use a home delivery service for alcohol than problem drinkers.”
The report to Congress, he added, also mentioned 10 percent of high school seniors and 7 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 20 in 15 Midwestern communities had reported they had used a home delivery service within the last year to obtain alcohol. “It’s youth and heavier drinkers who use home delivery services more prevalently,” added Creech. “This kind of service, unfortunately, exacerbates the problems of alcohol abuse – something that costs all of us.”
Although currently there isn’t anything in North Carolina law to prohibit home delivery of beer and wine, Dr. Creech said he plans to contact Chairman Jim Gardner of the North Carolina ABC Commission about the matter.
“I certainly can’t predict the Chairman’s response, but I do believe he deeply cares about the problem of underage drinking. The ‘Talk it Out’ campaign has been one of the most impressive efforts at curbing underage drinking I’ve seen. But I think Food Lion’s new policy is the kind of thing that works to undermine it,” he said.
Dr. Creech also said since lawmakers have been back in Raleigh this week for two special sessions, much of his focus has been on monitoring what’s happening at the General Assembly. “I haven’t had the opportunity to contact Food Lion executives yet,” he said, “but I plan to do that as quickly as possible.”
Wilson Smith, Ralph and Brown Ketner, originally founded Food Lion as Food Town in 1957. The first store was located in Salisbury, North Carolina, where its headquarters remains today.
The name Food Town was changed to Food Lion in the early 1980s after the company was acquired by Belgian grocer Delhaize.
The grocery chain has grown to nearly 1,000 stores in 10 Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states and employs more than 63,000 associates.