Amazon kicks off free Whole Foods delivery in four cities

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Amazon is starting the service in Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas and Virginia Beach.

Amazon and its recently-acquired subsidiary Whole Foods Market are once again raising the bar for retailers. "We're going to be expanding".

Prime members receive free two-hour delivery, or they can choose ultra-fast delivery within an hour for $7.99 on orders of $35. Under his leadership, Prime thrived to become one of the most successful customer loyalty programs anywhere, and added new services like Prime Now, a one-hour delivery option, and Prime Day, Amazon's one-day annual shopping event.

The company announced on Thursday that it has started using Whole Foods stores for its two-hour delivery service, Prime Now.

The company has rattled the health-care industry in recent weeks, and weighed on the shares of shippers Friday with plans to start a delivery service rivaling United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. If the service rolls out across Whole Foods stores, it will have another 475 locations to use for shipping orders, according to research from William Kirk, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. It'll include "the vast majority of things that people buy most frequently", Stephenie Landry, the vice president of Prime Now, told The Seattle Times.

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That includes fresh produce, seafood, meat, flowers, baked goods, and dairy products. Data shows that Whole Foods' brand is one of Amazon's strongest weapons as it tries to take a bigger piece of the grocery pie. Prime Now also offers delivery from local spots via Amazon Restaurants. "Together, we have already lowered prices on many items, and this offering makes Prime customers' lives even easier".

The move is the latest stamp Amazon has placed on Whole Foods since its $13.7 billion acquisition last June.

It's tempting to look at Prime Now as Amazon's vehicle for dominating grocery, an area in which it previously struggled.

"We're happy to bring our customers the convenience of free two-hour delivery through Prime Now", Whole Foods CEO John Mackey says in the announcement.