NEW YORK — Amazon is bringing its speedy delivery to Whole Foods.
The online retail giant plans to roll out two-hour delivery at the organic grocer this year to those who pay for Amazon's $99-a-year Prime membership. It is the company's biggest — and most expected — move since it bought the organic grocer last year.
Right after taking over Whole Foods, Amazon made a splash by cutting prices on bananas, yogurt and other items. It also began selling Kindle e-readers in some of its 470 stores, and started selling Whole Foods-branded food on its site.
But rivals have been preparing for the day Amazon would expand grocery delivery at Whole Foods.
Walmart, the country's largest grocer, is making it easier for customers to order groceries online and pick them up at the store. Target bought grocery-delivery company Shipt late last year. Kroger, the nation's largest supermarket chain, has been promoting store pickup for online orders and doing trials of home delivery.
One of the biggest hurdles for the growth of grocery delivery is that many people want to pick out their own eggs or fruit, said Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst at NPD Group.
"There are always going to be people who want their bananas a little green," he said.
Amazon.com Inc. said deliveries started Thursday in Austin, Texas; Cincinnati; Dallas; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. The service will expand nationwide this year.
Shoppers will be able to order meat, seafood and other grocery items through Amazon's Prime Now app and website. Items will be pulled from Whole Foods stores, bagged and then delivered by Amazon drivers. Amazon, based in Seattle, said there's no extra fee for two-hour deliveries above $35, but one-hour delivery will cost $8.
Whole Foods already offers delivery in some cities through a partnership with delivery service Instacart, which will continue.