SAN FRANCISCO— Instacart is expanding its consumer insights platform to help companies manage supply during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The company has been building its CPG insights team for several months and has provided tailored insights to partners including Kraft Heinz and General Mills since mid-February. The platform offers data on surging search and purchase trends as well as inventory details.

“With the recent surge in customer demand for online grocery, these insights have become particularly important as brands work to understand, in real-time, what items are surging and where there may be out of stock issues, so they can help get customers the items they need,” a spokesperson for Instacart told Food Business News.

The online grocery delivery platform uses its item availability model and replacement engine to make inventory predictions and item placement recommendations as customers shop. It will use that data to feed inventory insights back to more CPG partners in the weeks and months ahead.

Grocery delivery companies have seen a surge in demand as states across the country order residents to stay indoors and avoid non-essential trips outside of their homes. Order volume at Instacart has grown by more than 150% year-over-year during the last several weeks, with average customer basket size increasing by 15%. The company also is seeing record numbers of new shoppers sign up to fill and deliver orders. Nearly 50,000 new shoppers joined the platform last week. It hopes to bring on an additional 300,000 shoppers by June.

Along with speeding up its data sharing, Instacart announced several new measures aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety. It partnered with a third-party to manufacture its own hand sanitizer to overcome existing inventory delays and supply chain scarcity, without taking resources away from health care workers. The hand sanitizer began shipping this week and is available for shoppers in safety kits that also contain face masks and thermometers.

The company also expanded sick-pay benefits and bonuses for in-store shoppers. It now offers up to two weeks of extended pay for part- and full-time employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed under mandatory quarantine. Other benefits include a new customer tip default and shopper batch promotions.

The new measures came in response to a threatened walkout of Instacart employees over concerns about a lack of proper safety measures.

The company offers no-contact deliveries to promote social distancing. It also is working with retailers to give shoppers access to stores during pre-opening and post-closing hours.

“We've been evaluating the COVID-19 crisis minute-by-minute to provide real-time support for Instacart shoppers and customers throughout North America,” said Nilam Ganenthiran, president of Instacart. “Our teams will continue to operate with a sense of urgency on creative solutions to help ensure Instacart shoppers have access to health and safety supplies as quickly as possible.”