Can groceries be successfully sold in the ethereal world of cyberspace -- without any ownership connection to established brick-and-mortar supermarkets? That question has been posed ever since Peapod set up the first online grocery service in 1989, predating the Internet. The answer has certainly been sobering for the hardy start-ups that have tried so-called pure-play online food retailing operations. The examples of online-only grocery ventures that have crashed and burned are legion, ...

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