With on-demand delivery service goPuff, consumers can order eggs, chips, hard seltzer, dog food, or toothpaste to their doorstep in under an hour — now they can add a COVID-19 test kit to the bag, too.
GoPuff plans to begin delivering test kits by partnering with New York-based Purlab, a company that makes saliva-based COVID-19 tests in collaboration with Rutgers University that are authorized for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration.
According to Philadelphia-based goPuff, the partnership makes it the first company in the nation to offer “instant” delivery of at-home COVID-19 test kits, and they will be available in several Massachusetts neighborhoods.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Purlab and offer customers a new, faster and more convenient way to access COVID-19 tests,” said Rafael Ilishayev, goPuff’s cofounder and cochief executive, in a press release.
The news comes at a time when the demand for tests is soaring, and consumers are faced with expensive options if their insurance plan doesn’t cover it. Although there are various ways to get tested for COVID-19 in Massachusetts, an at-home kit delivered on-demand would allow consumers to skip in-person lines at testing centers and avoid waiting longer for tests by mail and other delivery services (including Amazon).
When consumers receive a Purlab test kit, they register through an app or online by scanning a barcode. Then they spit into a tube, place it back into the box, and use a pre-made overnight shipping label to send it to a lab. Purlab says results are returned within 24 to 72 hours of the lab receiving a sample, through a patient portal.
On goPuff, the tests kits cost about $130 each (for one test) and are “covered by most insurance carriers,” according to the company. Purlab also sells its kits directly from its website for $145.
GoPuff is a last-mile delivery company; it operates and stocks its own facilities with more than 2,500 products, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to toilet paper and laundry detergent. As consumers place orders through the goPuff app or online, employees place the items into a bag before passing them off to drivers, who work as independent contractors.
In Massachusetts, goPuff operates fulfillment centers in Boston, Allston, South Boston, East Boston, Newton, Worcester, and Lowell. It also delivers in certain areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The company charges a flat delivery fee of $1.95 — although it is waived for members — and on average, orders arrive in about 30 minutes.
Because of its goal to deliver products in minutes, goPuff often places its facilities within a 15-minute drive of the area it wants to serve. GoPuff has redesigned traditional retail spaces to be distribution centers, like its Allston location, also known as Boston Liquors.
Nationwide, goPuff runs more than 200 facilities in more than 500 cities, some of which are open 24/7. After launching in 2013 when its cofounders were undergraduates at Drexel University, goPuff has attracted deep-pocketed investors, including SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Its foray into the delivery of essential items comes at a time when competitors such as Amazon and DoorDash are racing to deliver products to consumers as quickly as possible, often entrenching themselves near residential areas.