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Brief Published: 11 Apr 2018

Shoptalk 2018: Convenience Food Retail

Walmart Pickup

The battle between American retailers to become the go-to source for convenience food shopping and fast online delivery was a key focus at this year’s Shoptalk 2018 (March 18-21), the annual retail conference held in Las Vegas.

Grocery retailers are vying for market share, recognising that by 2024 some 70% of US consumers will be grocery shopping online (Nielsen, 2018). 

  • Dinner-Time Battle: “The fight for dinner is a huge one,” said Jason Ackerman, co-founder and chief executive of US online-only grocery retailer FreshDirect. The company carries over 1,000 different ready-prepared meals and kits – a distinct advantage over bricks-and-mortar stores. FreshDirect has achieved this scale by preparing and distributing in volume from large-scale centralised commissary kitchens.

    Nearly 80% of Americans don’t know what they’re having for dinner by 4pm – as reported in Reflexive Retail: Live, Emotional and On-Demand. US retail giant Walmart is set to roll out meal kits to more than 2,000 stores by the end of this year. The meals will also be available via Walmart’s online grocery pick-up (see The Mobile-First Supermarket), which enables customers to order online at lunch and pick up by dinner time. 

    Bricks-and-mortar retail is also benefiting from the increased demand for convenience food. Kyle Ransford, chief executive and co-founder of California-based subscription-free meal-kit service Chef’d, said its sales at physical stores (including wholesale retailer Costco) are set to match or potentially surpass its online sales for the first time in 2018. “Today’s consumer seeks individual meal solutions rather than traditional grocery inventory,” noted Ransford. “Fewer households are planning out their menus for the week.”

    Reinforcing the idea of convenience first, experimental cashierless grocery store Amazon Go (which opened to the public in Seattle in January 2018) offers meal kits that enable shoppers to whip up a meal for two in 30 minutes. Amazon Go’s vice-president Gianna Puerini said the kits are one of the store’s top sellers. 

    New York-based subscription meal kit pioneer Blue Apron also announced in March 2018 that it plans to start selling its prepared dinners in grocery stores this year for the first time.
Fresh Direct
Walmart Online
Amazon Go
Amazon Go
  • Merchandising On-Demand: FreshDirect’s Ackerman spoke of the company’s sister service FoodKick, which offers one-hour delivery of groceries in New York. This approach was explored in the Delivery Focus: Same-Day Wins section of our full Shoptalk 2018 report.

    An estimated 60% of food is consumed within 24 hours of purchase, according to Ackerman. This drives FoodKick’s emphasis on marketing messages that shift by the hour and by location. “It’s not just about going fast, it’s how do you use the data and technology to create a unique merchandising opportunity for on-demand,” said Ackerman.
  • Anywhere Baskets: Thomas Parkinson, co-founder of online grocery retailer Peapod, addressed the 40% of food that’s purchased with longer-term plans in mind. He noted that Peapod’s shoppers “lock in” a delivery time, then over a period of days use desktop, mobile and voice (via its Ask Peapod skill on Amazon Alexa) to add to their basket. “We found our shoppers go online six times before they place an order,” he said.

    Parkinson also emphasised that the “secret sauce to delivery is density”. This is achieved by online targeting (and offering discounts) to people who live close to a customer who has already placed an order. In addition, they have rolled out financial incentives for customers to choose delivery slots at typically slower times, such as Wednesdays.

 For more on grocery innovations, see NRF 2018 Follow-Up: Next-Gen Supermarkets, 2018, EuroShop Follow-Up: The Tech-Powered SupermarketFuture Supermarket Strategies and In-Home Grocery Delivery.