PREPARING FOR THE “NEW NORMAL”
Today’s Wall Street Journal reported that Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV is accelerating development of a robotic cleaning arm to help workers clean stores and process orders more effectively due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All the researchers said this Covid situation is so urgent, we see a direct application for our work right now because there’s scarcity of people who can work in stores,” said Bart Voorn, Director of Data, AI, and Robotics.
Of course the grocery giant is only one of many organizations taking innovative steps to initiate improvements in how the operate.
The article quoted Paul Daugherty, Accenture PLC’s group chief executive for technology, as saying, “Hyper automation is coming. We have now only automated 15 to 20 percent of what we can do.”
As noted in previous posts, necessity is, indeed, the “mother of invention” in supermarket chains across the globe; and combining technology with tried-and-true process improvement methodology is the likely path toward preparing for the “new normal” in food shopping.
A recent SupermarketNews article reported that H-E-B has opened a state-of-the-art technology center in East Austin, Texas, that will serve as a “hub of innovation” for its digital team and Favor delivery service.
The article quoted Jag Bath, chief digital officer of H-E-B and CEO of Favor, who said, “The center will play an essential role in keeping both Favor and H-E-B as digital leaders.”
As we have previously shared, innovation and technology have become driving forces in the food industry. As summarized in an article posted on bouncepad.com, grocery shopping as we know it is shifting. Retailers are leveraging technology to target issues consumers have struggled with for years, now offering online shopping and home-delivery along with related offerings geared toward providing more convenience for busy shoppers.
In-store experiences have also begun to mold to the modern consumer, using integrated technology solutions and secure touch-points like tablet enclosures, which help supermarkets with cross-sell services, offer personalized deals, guide shoppers around the store and increase sales.
Click here for a slide show featuring H-E-B’s new technology center.
Once again Wegmans has been recognized as one of the best places to work in the country, as they ranked #2 on Fortune’s 2018 list.
“Company loyalty runs deep at this more than century- old grocery chain, which spent $50 million on employee development last year (plus $5 million in scholarships) and filled half of its open positions internally,” the Fortune web site states.
The piece went on to share that staffers say “fulfilling” work gives them a “sense of purpose,” thanks to Wegmans’ mission of “helping people live healthier, better lives through food.” The civic spirit helps too: The chain reclaims millions of pounds of food every year to feed the hungry.
Salesforce was listed atop the list, which, according to the company’s website, measures companies on the following characteristics:
- Executive team effectiveness
- People-focused programs
- “Great Place to Work For All”
In a Great Place to Work For All, employees report high levels of trust, credible and respectful leadership, pride in the work, and camaraderie.
More than 315,000 employees provided feedback to determine the winners of the 2018 list. To be considered, companies needed to have at least 1,000 employees and receive enough survey responses to achieve a 95% confidence level with no more than a 5% margin of error.
Our previous post indicated that Amazon was the clear leader in online grocery shopping. However, a recent SupermarketNews article said that “Walmart’s heavy investment in e-commerce is paying off, and the retail giant could top Amazon in online grocery market share by the end of this year.”
The data was based on a Deutsche Bank Securities report, which said Walmart had been shifting focus and growth strategies in the direction of e-commerce, and that the chain has plans to bring online grocery delivery to 100 metropolitan areas — covering 40% of U.S. households — by the end of 2018 through its own services and third-party providers.
Read the full article…
This past December Forbes published an article suggesting we should expect to see more changes at the grocery store this year as the industry adapts to various competitive pressures and emerging shopping habits.
“The last year has been a trying one for supermarkets that face not only changing technology and consumer demands but heightened competition on price,” the article said.
The article predicted four key trends for 2018, which were:
- More online shopping options
- Mobile payment acceptance
- Meal kits
- In-store drinking and dining
At the half-way-or-so point, it seems these predictions are on track. And clearly all four predictions focus on improving processes as well as customer service and the shopping experience!
Guess we can all stay-tuned to see if these trends continue…
According to a recent SupermarketNews article, Hy-Vee Inc. has introduced a benefits program for part-time employees.
Calling the move a “first of its kind in the retail industry,” the Midwestern grocer said the program offers 11 benefit options to its more than 58,000 part-time staff ages 19 and older. Spouses and dependents also are covered by the plan, whose options include:
- Short-term disability
- Accident and critical illness coverage
- Hospital indemnity
- Group and individual life and disability insurance
- Auto, homeowner and renter insurance
- Pet insurance
Read the full article…
Events or actions that had a significant impact on the retail food business this past year, as published by SupermarketNews:
- Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods Market
- German discounter Lidl entering the U.S. market
- The granularity of data and the speed with which it can be converted into insights and action
- The new position of Chief Digital Officer, reflecting the desire to find new ways to enhance the customer experience in the modern shopping environment
- The proposed mega-merger between CVS and health insurance provider Aetna
- Private label growth — a marked boom in store brands
- Plant-based alternatives to dairy: 58% of adults now drink non-dairy milk
- The hyperactive hurricane season disrupted retail operation in the gulf-and-south regions, and also demonstrated how adept food retailers have become at responding to natural disasters
- Blockchain technology, which is designed to provide real-time, public information on food products as they travel through the supply chain from producer to store
Channel 3, which is a new platform where retailers and brands encourage customers to visit stores more frequently and spend more when they’re there. Read the story
In a recent video report, Phil Lempert, “Supermarket Guru,” referenced a United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization statement indicating one-third of food gets spoiled or wasted.
That translates to approximately $1 trillion per year, or double the dollar volume of the grocery industry as a whole!
As you are most likely aware, to reduce food waste we have to control environmental conditions including temperature, moisture levels, and UV exposure all across the supply chain including on shoppers homes.
The Spoon reports that a group of researchers led by Giovanni Salvatore at ETH Zurich have developed a biocompatible microsensor that can be directly applied to food and is safe to eat. The sensor is made from a combination of edible materials such as magnesium and a compostable polymer made with corn and food starch.
But there is a problem – making them is currently very expensive, compared to pennies or even fractions of pennies for traditional RFID tags.
However, Salvatore predicts that these biodegradable sensors will be part of our everyday lives within 5 to 10 years.
A recent video and report by Phil Lempert, founder of supermarketguru.com, shared information about “Tally,” a robot that will be working the aisles at Schnucks looking for items that are out of stock and checking on prices.
The robot is being tested at a store in the Richmond Heights area of St. Louis, the article says. A second will be tested at another store in the Kirkwood area. The tests are expected to last about six weeks.
Tally weighs about 30 pounds and stands at 38 inches tall and has sensors to avoid bumping into things like shoppers and carts. It scans the shelves and notifies the store personnel when quantities are running low.
A new component of the digital trend?
A recent SupermarketNews article shared some interesting insights into how grocery shoppers are making decisions with respect to making healthier choices.
The primary factors influencing these “at the shelf” decisions include:
- Concerns about impact on personal health/well-being
- Desire to know exactly what ingredients go into their food
- Environmental impacts
- Do not want to support suppliers that use of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s)
While the study also showed an increasing number of shoppers relying on online-only retailers, (a trend led by Millennials), they’re selecting a narrow range of products online, such as household cleaning products, and continue to buy fresh bakery and produce items in-store.