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Andrew Parkinson


Title:President, Peapod, Evanston, Ill.

Bio:Born on Long Island, N.Y. B.A. in economics, Wesleyan University, 1980.

Work history:Assistant brand manager, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Citrus Hill orange juice, 1980-83; brand manager, Kraft Singles, and manager of strategy and acquisitions, cheese division, 1983-87; U.S. Board Sailing Team member, 1987-89; current post, 1989-.

When Andrew Parkinson and his brother Thomas founded an online grocery ordering and delivery service called Peapod in 1989, few people, including them, had even heard of the Internet.

"We didn't even know about Prodigy," said Mr. Parkinson.

Today more than 15,000 customers in the Chicago area and parts of San Francisco log onto Peapod's software to order groceries online. Peapod reported sales of $15 million in 1994, up from $4 million in 1993, and the company plans to expand to Boston next year.

"When we started Peapod, no one was using computers to order things," said Mr. Parkinson. "Computer users were mostly male, and we were going after an audience that's primarily female."

But Mr. Parkinson was no stranger to the world of food marketing.

"At Kraft and P&G, I had seen that a lot of people don't like shopping for groceries, but no one was providing a service that was high enough quality. We put Peapod together to systematize the whole process. Most of Peapod, 95% of the code we've written, is to support the operations."

The name Peapod was chosen almost on a whim, when the brothers were ordering their business cards.

"From a marketing perspective, we were trying to not isolate the consumer with technology," he said. "Peapod is a unique name that tied into grocery shopping and freshness."

The Internet's rapid growth surprised Mr. Parkinson, but he's skeptical about the potential of Internet commerce.

"What you see on the Internet today provides less value than a catalog or 800-number. It takes much longer to scan through the Internet than it does a catalog, given the equipment in homes today. The Web is too slow for practical shopping."

Mr. Parkinson concedes Peapod's graphics are archaic by today's standards, so the company will offer a new, Windows-based version of its software later this year.

"Our customer base tells us they are much more interested in information like price, nutrition, than high-resolution graphics," he said.

Betcha didn't know:After working for conservative companies P&G and Kraft for seven years, Andrew Parkinson took two years off to do nothing but windsurf. He was on the U.S. Board Sailing team and tried out for the Olympics, but alas, he didn't make the team.

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