The gig economy has transformed over the past year, especially as more consumers come to rely on delivery intermediaries, including DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Instacart.

What is a gig economy company?

The gig economy, also referred to as the sharing economy, consists of independent contractors providing services for everything from personal transportation—including Uber and Lyft—to food delivery—such as DoorDash and Instacart.

Top gig economy companies

Insider Intelligence has rounded up several key players in the gig economy space that have seen strong growth during the pandemic. Take a look at what the current state of the space looks like.

Uber and Lyft

After a deflated 2020, when consumers spent more time at home, Uber and Lyft are both poised to see US ride-hailing sales grow for years to come. Uber will bounce back faster, starting from a higher base and bolstered by its restaurant delivery service. Since Lyft is limited to transportation, it will need to work harder to re-engage old users and gain new ones. 

Uber and Lyft will continue their duopoly of the ride-hailing market, cornering 61.2% and 32.7% of sales, respectively. By the end of 2023, Uber will surpass $35 billion in ride-hailing sales, up from $14.15 billion last year. By comparison, Lyft brought in $7.56 billion last year and won’t arrive at the $14 billion mark until 2023.

DoorDash

DoorDash was once again the most downloaded US food and drink app in 2021, racking up 37 million downloads, 5% fewer than in 2020. While DoorDash’s downloads were down, its US restaurant sales were up 43.5% last year, on top of nearly 200% growth in 2020, per our estimates. This year, the industry giant will exceed $32 billion in restaurant sales, eating up half of all restaurant delivery intermediary sales in the US.

Many factors have led to the company’s success. For one, unlike some of its competitors, DoorDash works with restaurants that haven’t traditionally offered delivery to customers. What’s more, DoorDash not only focuses on big cities, but also on suburbs and smaller urban areas, offering convenience, alcohol, and grocery deliveries, as well. It’s selling itself to investors as a delivery company, rather than just a food delivery company, in a push for long-term success beyond the restaurant delivery intermediary industry. This has given it a big opportunity to grow sales in key areas that may have otherwise been overlooked.

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Uber Eats

Just like DoorDash, Uber’s restaurant delivery business, Uber Eats, saw a significant boost in sales in 2020, then continued with a 58.6% year-over-year (YoY) growth in 2021. Growth is expected to slow in the next couple years, with a 13.9% and a 17.4% increase in 2022 and 2023 respectively. By 2023, Uber Eats will account for more than a third of the total restaurant delivery market, bringing in nearly $26 billion in sales.

Instacart

Instacart’s growth exploded in 2020, with sales increasing by 229.7% over 2019, for a total of $23.42 billion. This year, sales are expected to exceed the $30 billion mark, claiming 20.5% of the US grocery ecommerce market. 

Instacart is expected to continue showing strong growth over the next two years—rising to $35.00 billion in sales by 2023—but its share of the overall grocery ecommerce market will drop slightly from 21.3% to 20.0% over this time, and its share of the grocery delivery intermediary market will drop from 84.2% in 2020 to 68.2% in 2023.

Future of gig economy and gig workers

There’s no doubt that gig workers provide businesses with tremendous flexibility to scale and meet demand. Those benefits, however, come at the cost of growing employment dissatisfaction. Gig workers are increasingly encountering challenges due to rising gas prices, a tight labor market, and growing momentum for legislation that could increase their costs.

Gig workers across the country are advocating for higher pay and improved working conditions: Over 7,000 people have signed a petition asking for Uber and Lyft to raise their base rates to help offset the rising cost of gas; while companies including Instacart, DoorDash, and GoPuff have faced strikes from contractors. Efforts to classify gig workers as employees are also happening at the state level, per Protocol, in response to President Joe Biden having recently voiced approval for a bill that would make it easier for them to unionize.