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Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future

The first clue that there’s something unusual about Amazon’s store of the future hits you right at the front door. It feels as if you are entering a subway station. A row of gates guard the entrance to the store, known as Amazon Go, allowing in only people with the store’s smartphone app.

Inside is an 1,800-square foot mini-market packed with shelves of food that you can find in a lot of other convenience stores — soda, potato chips, ketchup. It also has some food usually found at Whole Foods, the supermarket chain that Amazon owns.

But the technology that is also inside, mostly tucked away out of sight, enables a shopping experience like no other. There are no cashiers or registers anywhere. Shoppers leave the store through those same gates, without pausing to pull out a credit card. Their Amazon account automatically gets charged for what they take out the door.

On Monday, the store will open to the public for the first time. Gianna Puerini, the executive in charge of Amazon Go, recently gave tours of the store, in downtown Seattle. This is a look at what shoppers will encounter.

CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times
CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times
There is no need for a shopping cart. Products can go straight into a shopping bag.CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times

There are no shopping carts or baskets inside Amazon Go. Since the checkout process is automated, what would be the point of them anyway? Instead, customers put items directly into the shopping bag they’ll walk out with.

Every time customers grab an item off a shelf, Amazon says the product is automatically put into the shopping cart of their online account. If customers put the item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from their virtual basket.

The only sign of the technology that makes this possible floats above the store shelves — arrays of small cameras, hundreds of them throughout the store. Amazon won’t say much about how the system works, other than to say it involves sophisticated computer vision and machine learning software. Translation: Amazon’s technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix.

CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times

There were a little over 3.5 million cashiers in the United States in 2016 — and some of their jobs may be in jeopardy if the technology behind Amazon Go eventually spreads. For now, Amazon says its technology simply changes the role of employees — the same way it describes the impact of automation on its warehouse workers.

“We’ve just put associates on different kinds of tasks where we think it adds to the customer experience,” Ms. Puerini said.

Those tasks include restocking shelves and helping customers troubleshoot any technical problems. Store employees mill about ready to help customers find items, and there is a kitchen next door with chefs preparing meals for sale in the store. Because there are no cashiers, an employee sits in the wine and beer section of the store, checking I.D.s before customers can take alcohol off the shelves.

CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times
CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times
CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times

Most people who spend any time in a supermarket understand how vexing the checkout process can be, with clogged lines for cashiers and customers who fumble with self-checkout kiosks.

At Amazon Go, checking out feels like — there’s no other way to put it — shoplifting. It is only a few minutes after walking out of the store, when Amazon sends an electronic receipt for purchases, that the feeling goes away.

Actual shoplifting is not easy at Amazon Go. With permission from Amazon, I tried to trick the store’s camera system by wrapping a shopping bag around a $4.35 four-pack of vanilla soda while it was still on a shelf, tucking it under my arm and walking out of the store. Amazon charged me for it.

CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times
CreditKyle Johnson for The New York Times

A big unanswered question is where Amazon plans to take the technology. It won’t say whether it plans to open more Amazon Go stores, or leave this as a one-of-a-kind novelty. A more intriguing possibility is that it could use the technology inside Whole Foods stores, though Ms. Puerini said Amazon has “no plans” to do so.

There’s even speculation that Amazon could sell the system to other retailers, much as it sells its cloud computing services to other companies. For now, visitors to Amazon Go may want to watch their purchases: Without a register staring them in the face at checkout, it’s easy to overspend.

Source: The New York Times

Walmart applies for 3D image patent for online grocery

Walmart recently applied for a patent for a system that allows customers to preview food items selected for their online orders through pictures, according to CB Insights.

The system, which is referred to as a “Fresh Online Experience” in the patent, would use 3D scanning to show online shoppers in-store items.

The system gives customers the ability to choose the exact items that will be put into their orders. After a customer places an order, a store associate uses a 3D scanner to scan items they pull from Walmart’s inventory.

The visual is uploaded to a platform by the store associate and sent to the customer, who then receives a notification to review the item. Customers can reject the item selected, but are limited to a fixed number of attempts, after which they’re prompted to select from one of the previous options that had been sent to them. Once the customer approves an item, it receives an “edible watermark” and is then packed for delivery. Walmart may automate the scanning portion of the system to increase efficiency.

This may help Walmart compete better with Amazon in online grocery. Amazon currently leads in online grocery, a segment which generated $2 billion in revenue in 2017 for the e-commerce titan. However, most of its sales came from packaged food products, and it garners very little sales from fresh foods. Most customers prefer to pick out their groceries, especially when it comes to fresh products.

As such, Walmart’s new system may help it gain an edge over Amazon, especially if these 3D visuals can reassure customers that they’ll be able to pick out quality produce without having to physically see them.

Source: Business Insider

Amazon led the US in online grocery in 2017

Amazon is estimated to have 18% of the US online grocery market, which is double the second place share held by Walmart.

Establishing market share now is important because it will make it easier to capitalize on the potentially immense value of the US online grocery industry in the future: It is projected to be worth as much $100 billion by 2025.

Most of Amazon’s US online grocery sales came from packaged food products. The e-commerce titan’s top five US online grocery categories in 2017 were packaged products, like cold beverages and snack foods, One Click Retail estimates. Each of these categories is estimated to have grown over 30% YoY to bring in a combined $1.1 billion. However, Amazon likely isn’t satisfied with the performance of its nonpackaged grocery categories, like fresh fruit and dairy. Sales in these categories pale in comparison to those of packaged goods.

In fact, dairy, Amazon’s top selling fresh product category online in the US, brought in just $85 million in 2017. The discrepancy is likely due to consumers’ interest in picking out their own fresh products.

The acquisition of Whole Foods may already be making a difference for Amazon in grocery. One Click Retail’s data suggests that the acquisition gave AmazonFresh a boost in sales, even before Whole Foods products became available through the service. This could mean that consumers are increasingly thinking of Amazon as a grocery destination because of Whole Foods, and given Whole Foods’ reputation for organic and local products, consumers may become more open to buying fresh products through Amazon.

Source: Business Insider

whole foods

The new Whole Foods adopts one of old grocery’s most condemned practices

Among the many criticisms leveled against grocery stores that rely on slotting allowances and other supplier fees to operate their businesses is that these charges result in higher prices to consumers and a degree of sameness — a sort of dumbing down of merchandising creativity — across locations. That’s what makes a recent Washington Post article, which suggests Whole Foods is moving to a similar system to operate its business, a head scratcher.

According to the report, the grocer has sent an email to suppliers informing them that its shelf space, displays and in-store sampling will be set based in part on contributions made by vendors. The switch is part of Whole Foods’ migration to more centralized operations. Last May, the Omaha World-Heraldreported the company had “shifted many of its purchasing decisions to its national office, taking some power out of the hands of its regional offices.”

One of the concerns with slotting allowances is that they effectively price smaller and sometimes more innovative brands off store shelves, ceding more real estate to me-too nationals.

In an online discussion last week, many members of the RetailWire BrainTrust were concerned about the route Whole Foods is taking.

“Is Whole Foods striving to be Kroger?” said Anne Howe of Anne Howe Associates. “This whole effort makes me feel sad. One of the attractions of going to Whole Foods was to discover local and small-batch food purveyors and, in the process, enjoy something usually better than average grocery store fare.”

“As brands gain greater market share they forget what made them important in the first place,” said Tom Dougherty, president of Stealing Share. “They become the very thing they positioned their brand against. Whole Foods is losing its way and its differentiation.”

According to an email obtained by the Post, grocery vendors that sell more than $300,000 annually to the chain will need to discount their products by three percent to pay for the program. Health and beauty suppliers at the same level will be required to drop theirs by five percent.

Whole Foods will also mandate that local suppliers pay $110 per location to have the retailer’s in-house broker, Daymon Associates, run a four-hour demo in-store, while national vendors will pay $165.

Kathleen Overman, a former employee of Whole Foods, who founded a company that hosts product demonstrations at the chain’s stores, praised the grocer for its history of “creating a community of local food producers and brands” in an interview with the paper.

“Our job has always been to advocate for those small businesses, but with these new rules, companies like mine will no longer be useful,” she said.

RetailWire’s BrainTrust, however, sees an unintended benefit for small brands if Whole Foods continues in this direction.

“Good bye Whole Foods,” said Liz Crawford, vice president of research at Product Ventures. “You were a lot of fun. Fortunately, you have opened the door to new upstarts who will now take your place, offering innovative, healthy, whole foods.”

“Pay-to-play will only push those regional and local suppliers to find alternative ways of selling their product, like direct-to-consumer e-commerce which will not be beneficial for retailers in the future,” said Dave Nixon, data analytics solutions executive at Teradata.

And some, such as Phil Chang, retail influencer at Hubba, said that there’s a historical precedent for what happens to retailers that squeeze their vendors.

“In every instance in which we’ve seen retailers adopt these programs, the ‘reason for being’ goes away and it becomes solely about profit,” wrote Mr. Chang on RetailWire. “Welcome Whole Foods to the rest of boring grocery.”

Source: Forbes

Retail workers’ jobs are transforming as shoppers’ habits change

With new options and conveniences, there’s never been a better time for shoppers. As for workers — well, not always.

The retail industry is being radically reshaped by technology, and nobody feels that disruption more starkly than 16 million American shelf stockers, salespeople, cashiers and other workers. The shifts are driven, like much in retail, by the Amazon effect — the explosion of online shopping and the related changes in consumer behavior and preferences.

As mundane tasks such as checkout and inventory are automated, employees are trying to deliver the kind of customer service the internet can’t match.

So a Best Buy employee who used to sell electronics in the store is dispatched to customers’ homes to help them choose just the right products. A Wal-Mart worker dashes in and out of the grocery aisles, hand-picks products for online shoppers and brings them to people’s cars.

Yet even as responsibilities change — and in many cases, expand — the average growth in pay for retail workers isn’t keeping pace with the rest of the economy. Some companies say that in the long run the transformation could mean fewer retail workers, though they may be better paid. But while some workers feel more satisfied, others find their jobs a lot less fun.

Bloomingdale’s saleswoman Brenda Moses remembers the pre-internet era, when the upscale store was regularly filled with customers ready to buy. These days, department stores are less crowded and the customers who do come in can make price comparisons on their phones at the same time as they pepper staff with questions.

“You tell them everything, and then they look at you and say, ‘You know what? I think I will get it online,’” Moses said.

Moses has seen her commission rate rise to 6%, from 0.5%, but her hourly wage dropped from $19 to as low as $10 before it came back up to $14. Depending more on commissions means her income fluctuates — and that she’s competing with her colleagues for each sale.

“Now,” Moses said, “you have to fight to make your money.”

The same could be said for the retailing industry overall. In 2017, 66,500 U.S. retail jobs disappeared (not taking into account jobs added in areas such as distribution and call centers). In the last decade, about 1 in 7 jobs have vanished in the hardest-hit sectors such as clothing and consumer electronics, said Frank Badillo, director of research at MacroSavvy LLC. Though department stores have suffered the most, smaller businesses also have struggled to compete with online sellers.

Many of the survivors are rushing to adapt. Of the retail jobs that remain, over the next decade as many as 60% either will be new kinds of roles or will involve revised duties, said Craig Rowley, senior client partner at Korn Ferry Hay Group, a human resources advisory firm. He estimated the number is about 10% now.

How fast retail jobs will change and what they’ll look like depends on three factors, Rowley said: the pace at which online shopping advances; the speed at which robotics and other technology progress; and shifts in the minimum wage.

“Jobs for workers will get more interesting and be more impactful on the company’s business,” Rowley said. “But the negative side is that there will be fewer entry-level jobs and there will be more pressure to perform.”

Some retail workers at the vanguard of the changes — such as Laila Ummelaila, a personal grocery shopper at a Wal-Mart store in Old Bridge, N.J. — speak glowingly of their new responsibilities.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest private employer, has scrutinized every job in its stores as it looks to leverage its more than 4,000 U.S. locations against Amazon.com Inc.’s internet dominance.

Wal-Mart now has 18,000 personal shoppers who fill online orders from store shelves, and 17,000 checkout hosts whose responsibilities are more extensive than the greeters of old, including keeping the area clean and making sure registers move efficiently. The company has also shifted workers from backroom clerical jobs and eliminated some overnight stocker positions in favor of more daytime sales help. The customers like the changes, company officials say, pointing to more than three years of sales growth at its established U.S. stores — a contrast with other, suffering retailers.

Ummelaila became a personal shopper after joining the company three years ago. To meet her store’s goals, she must pick one item per 30 seconds. If she can’t find something, she has to quickly get a substitute that’s as good or better.

“You start to get to know the customers, you know what they like,” she said, “how they like their meat and how long they keep milk in the fridge.”

Best Buy Co., meanwhile, has begun a free service in key markets in which salespeople will sit with customers in their own homes and make recommendations on setting up a home office or designing a home theater system. Best Buy said shoppers spend more with a home visit than they do at the stores. The project follows Amazon, which reportedly has been testing a program that sends employees to shoppers’ houses for free “smart home” recommendations.

At Steve Frederick’s townhouse in Chicago, Billy Schuler offered advice about speakers that can be adjusted from a smartphone. Schuler, who had previously worked at Best Buy for 14 years, returned to the company to take on the new role.

“Customers are more relaxed when they are in their home,” he said. “We can do a walk-through of the house and see their needs.” He likes to “break the ice” by calling the person and chatting a day or two before the visit.

Frederick, who is spending close to $20,000 on the equipment, describes himself as “old school” and says he needed a lot of help. He said it was worthwhile.

“When you are spending that kind of money, you want to have someone come in and explain it,” he said.

Schuler declined to give specifics but said he is well compensated. Ummelaila said her pay went up to nearly $12 per hour, from $10, when she became a personal shopper.

Target Corp. credits its strategy of assigning dedicated sales staff in areas such as clothing, consumer electronics and beauty for helping increase sales, and it says having visual merchandisers create vignettes like shoppers would see in specialty stores inspires people to buy. “You are making an outfit and telling a story on each rack,” said Crystal Lawrence, who works at a Target store in Brooklyn, N.Y. She said she likes the variety in her new job, and Target says it plans to keep paying higher wages for those specialized roles.

But a survey of nearly 300 retail workers — conducted by the Center for Frontline Retail and Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center — found that of those workers whose job responsibilities have changed, more than 40% said they hadn’t received corresponding pay increases.

Wages for hourly retail workers have risen less than 9% since 1990, compared with 18% for private-sector workers overall. There has been some progress recently; some of the biggest retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, have made moves to increase pay in the face of low unemployment and competition for workers.

“For a long period, these retail jobs were just terrible on average,” said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. “Retail stores have been following one strategy: high turnover, low wages. That strategy is no longer viable.”

Mandel sees hope in technology, which he says historically has created more and better-paying jobs than it has eliminated.

The National Retail Federation trade group points to government data showing that even in large supermarket chains where self-checkout has become standard, the number of employees per store has held steady over the 15 years through 2014. And the demand for grocery cashiers rose in the last few years, said Burning Glass Technologies, a company that analyzes labor market data.

McDonald’s says the self-serve kiosks it has been rolling out won’t result in mass layoffs, but will mean that some cashiers shift roles to accommodate changes such as offering table service.

But a report prepared by Cornerstone Capital Group for the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute predicts that more than 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being eliminated by automation over the next several years.

Amazon is testing a grocery store in Seattle without cashiers, using cameras and shelf sensors to keep track of the items that shoppers grab and charge them. Eatsa, an automat-style restaurant in San Francisco, lacks cashiers as well — diners order at kiosks, and workers prepare the food behind an opaque wall, with virtually no interaction between them.

A labor group representing 1.3 million grocery and food workers is trying to combat automation by highlighting that workers’ specialized skills — such as the care they take in icing a rose on a wedding cake, or arranging flowers, or the ability of human workers to recognize spoiled food — provide a benefit to shoppers.

“Separating progress for the consumer, for the worker, for the economy versus the stockholders — those are completely different things,” said Erikka Knuti, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Others say automation and happy workers are not necessarily incompatible.

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Doug McMillon foresees fewer sales associates at his stores, but says they’ll be better paid and better trained. Wal-Mart has trained 225,000 supervisors and managers on topics such as new apps and better customer service. It says managers who go through the academies have better retention rates than those who do not. Workers who report to those managers stay longer. And entry-level workers who complete a new training program are more likely to remain.

It’s a shift retailers may have to speed up. Government figures show that in 2016, the rate of retail workers quitting their jobs was at its highest since 2007.

Alfredo Duran, who started as a sales associate at Gap and worked at six retailers over 15 years, left the industry two years ago. As a manager at clothing chain Mango, he was making $75,000 a year. But once the store closed, he had trouble finding another job in retail because no one wanted to pay him for his experience.

“It’s gone down. One person is doing three jobs. And you can’t move up,” said Duran, 38, of Queens, N.Y.

He’s now a concierge at a Manhattan hotel, making half of what he used to earn — but happy he left retail.

A look at retailers’ new jobs

Confronting changing shopper habits and increased competition from online sellers, retailers are creating new jobs at their stores and redefining employee duties. Here’s a look at some new positions and shifting roles at major retailers.

Wal-Mart

• Personal shoppers: These workers fill online grocery orders from store shelves, in some cases finding one product every 30 seconds, and take the items to shoppers’ cars at the curb.

• Checkout hosts: Not just greeters, they’re responsible for overseeing the self-checkout and scan-and-go areas and helping customers navigate them. They also keep the checkout area tidy, judge if more registers need to be opened, and help customers with questions as they come and go.

Target

• Visual merchandisers: They create the kinds of fashion or home design vignettes that shoppers may be more used to seeing in specialty stores than discount chains. Target says this inspires shoppers to buy more.

• Dedicated sales associates: These employees work only in a particular area, such as clothing, electronics, beauty and grocery, rather than shifting from department to department. They get extra training on the brands in their areas; their focus is helping shoppers.

Best Buy

• In-home advisors: They visit shoppers’ homes and recommend products suitable for their spaces to help them create a home office or set up a home theater. The service is free.

Bloomingdale’s

• Personal stylists: Some stylists now pull options for shoppers ahead of time based on their answers to an online questionnaire about price, favorite brands, style and sizes, and make refinements based on text conversations. That’s similar to the styling services offered by online companies such as Stitch Fix. But instead of receiving clothes to try on at home and possibly send back, shoppers then work with stylists in person, at the store. Bloomingdale’s is testing the service at its Manhattan SoHo store and says the online component offers speedier service. Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue also have personal stylists, as well as an online component.

Source: Los Angeles Times

‘Extreme value’ discounter Grocery Outlet plans 25-store expansion

You don’t hear any complaints about food deserts in the parking lots of Grocery Outlet stores. Originally a reseller of surplus military rations, Grocery Outlet is currently a chain of 270 privately owned supermarkets in five western states plus Pennsylvania.

Founded by James Read in 1946 as Cannery Sales, and still managed today by the same family, the company has been owned since 2014 by a private equity fund, Hellman & Friedman.

It’s what’s known in the industry as an “extreme value” retailer. Grocery Outlet buys excess inventory (discounted, overstock, closeout) from reputable, national consumer package goods companies (Kellogg’s, General Mills, Oscar Mayer, Kraft, etc.) and passes the often-substantial savings along to its customers.

The second part of the business model is that each store is independently operated. Says co-CEO MacGregor Read, grandson of the founder, on the company website: “We purchase all of the merchandise and consign it to your Grocery Outlet Bargain Market store. You manage your own team of employees to operate the store, select the consigned merchandise from our inventory guides, and sell the consigned merchandise to your customers.”

The news today is that Grocery Outlet is expanding. Not the individual footprint of each store; that’s still in the 20,000-foot-range, roughly half a typical supermarket (more like an Aldi), but the number of stores.

Some 25 new stores are planned for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California and Pennsylvania. Specifically, over a dozen new stores in the Los Angeles area, which is a relatively new market for Grocery Outlet, and a city where more shopping opportunities are sorely needed. According to Winsight Grocery Business, an industry newsletter:

Neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area have been struggling with the lack of supermarkets and affordable fresh food for years.

An article in LA Weekly pointed out, citing U.S Census data, that South Los Angeles had only 46 full-service grocery stores in 2015, equivalent to just 0.57 stores per every 10,000 people.

Grocery Outlet recruits entrepreneurial talent and trains them to become independent store operators without having to invest in a new store or refurbish an existing retail location, let alone purchase inventory.

“Each one of our stores is independently owned and operated locally in that market,” says Grocery Outlet’s VP of Marketing, Layla Kasha. “We’re not another big company that’s just stomping out a bunch of stores. We are really a partner in the community on every level.”

Annual sales at Grocery Outlet climbed from $500 million in 2001 to almost $2 billion in 2016.

Source: Forbes

Walmart is taking a direct shot at Amazon and making checkout lanes obsolete

Walmart is expanding its test of a new technology that enables shoppers to scan and pay for their items without checkout lanes, registers, or cashiers.

The retailer is rolling out the service, called “Scan & Go,” to 100 additional stores by the end of January, in addition to the 25 that already offer the service.

Here’s how it works: shoppers download Walmart’s “Scan & Go” app, then scan the barcodes of the items they wish to purchase.

Once they are finished shopping, they click a button to pay for their goods and show their digital receipt to a store greeter on their way out the door.

Amazon revealed plans in December to introduce a similar technology to its own brick-and-mortar grocery concept, called Amazon Go, which is still in the planning phases.

Kroger has also been working on cashier-less technology. This year, the grocery chain is rolling out its own “Scan & Go” service — which Kroger calls “Scan, Bag, Go” to 400 stores.

This is Walmart’s second attempt at Scan & Go technology.

Walmart first launched the technology in stores three years ago, but it never caught on.

Source: Business Insider

Amazon is dropping major hints it’s ready to dominate the fresh grocery business

Amazon could be about to make some big changes to its grocery business, which currently consists of two services: AmazonFresh and Prime Now.

AmazonFresh is the company’s oldest grocery delivery service, a traditional online option with a $15-a-month membership cost and reserved delivery times.

Prime Now, on the other hand, is Amazon’s two-hour delivery offering, which comes free with Prime. On top of a more limited selection of food, it also offers a small selection of products like Echo devices and seasonal items.

Now, changes at Amazon offer a glimpse at how these two services may be coming together in meaningful ways.In November, Amazon stopped its Fresh delivery service in parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and California, and it has yet to comment on why it did so.

An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement to Businss Insider: “We have made changes to our service area and discontinued delivery to select zip codes. AmazonFresh continues to serve customers across the US (Seattle, New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and more) and internationally (London, Tokyo, Berlin and Munich).”

At the same time, Amazon is opening new Prime Now hubs in major cities. The service is now available in more than 30 cities and towns, and its food selection has been greatly expanded as it incorporates Whole Foods’ assortment of products.

At the time of this writing, Prime Now offers a selection of more than 1,000 Whole Foods items and more than 5,500 grocery food offerings in Manhattan. In contrast, AmazonFresh offers about 13,500 grocery items for delivery to Manhattan.

The Amazon executive in charge of Prime Now, VP Stephenie Landry, has also been tapped to lead AmazonFresh.

“If you look around this facility, you’re going to see a lot of everyday items — food and consumables,” Landry told Recode. “AmazonFresh sells the same types of products but a much greater variety. And so both of them have a lot of synergies and it makes sense to think about them jointly.”

Landy also recently took the reigns for Amazon Restaurants — a prepared-food-delivery program that’s partnered with local restaurants — which is hosted on the same Amazon websiteas Prime Now.

That’s prompted speculation that Prime Now and AmazonFresh may be joining forces. A Morgan Stanley survey of Prime members shows that Prime Now grocery orders are up. The bank wrote in a note to investors that 48% of people using Prime Now are ordering grocery items with it — more than they are ordering more traditional e-commerce offerings.

The survey was done prior to the Whole Foods acquisition’s close and before its products were put on Amazon, so it’s possible that adoption has increased even more.

It’s tempting to look at Prime Now as Amazon’s vehicle for dominating grocery — an area where it’s struggled previously. Combining Whole Foods’ nationwide grocery footprint and selection with Prime Now’s delivery logistics to provide free, two-hour delivery could prove an unbeatable combination.

Landry told Recode that Prime Now and AmazonFresh won’t merge —  at least, not yet.

“I actually think that we’re going to have lots of different ways to get food to customers. But behind the scenes it makes sense to develop as many efficiencies as possible,” she said.

An Amazon spokeswoman told Business Insider that the company does not comment on speculation.

Source: Business Insider

Why this frozen food company backed by Serena Williams and Bobby Flay just received $43 million in funding

The future of healthy fast food is frozen.

Celebrities like Serena Williams and Gwyneth Paltrow are investing big money in Daily Harvest, a plant-based frozen meal delivery service with pre-made smoothies, chia parfaits, soups and grain bowls loaded with superfoods and nutrients from whole fruits and veggies. Its out to change the stigma attached to the hyper processed frozen food aisle.

The female-led company received $43 million in a third round of funding led by venture capital firms and olympic athlete Shaun White, celebrity chef Bobby Flay and actress Haylie Duff this month that’s allowed it to expanded its product line to include 33 meals ready to eat instantly.

Daily Harvest items seem to be nourishing the need for healthy fast food where there’s long been a gap in the frozen food space with pizza, chicken nuggets, and standalone veggies like chopped spinach.

“The frozen aisle is literally and figuratively a very cold place,” CEO and Founder of Daily Harvest Rachel Drori tells Moneyish. “Our investors are enthusiastic about how we’re leveraging the long-overlooked and misrepresented frozen food market to make nutritious, plant-based food convenient and accessible nationwide.”

The female-led company started out with just smoothies in 2015, and has since expanded new savory grain bowls made with cauliflower and rice (a lighter riff on Italian risotto), and a zesty quinoa chipotle burrito bowl out in January. Its acquired more than 100,000 subscribers nationwide.

Drori, 35, thought up the idea for the business based on her own dilemma of wanting to eat healthy, but having no time to meal prep when she was working in sales and marketing for Gilt Groupe. She would freeze fruits and veggies herself and make smoothies to eat on the go. The life hack eventually turned into a business plan that prompted her to quit her job and rent out a commercial kitchen in Long Island City, Queens where she started delivering her fruit-filled smoothie cups to friends and family. Since then, she enlisted Michelin-trained chef Jessica Young and a nutritionist to help think up creative and tasty recipes, and hired a team for more than 30 ladies to help run the brand which ships nationwide.

“I had to pull all nighters,” says Drori of beefing up business. “The biggest challenge was taking time away from a rapidly scaling business. There just were not enough hours in the day.”

Frozen food is heating up the market estimated to reach $360.36 billion by 2024. And according to the Mintel Global Food and Drink Trends 2017 report, there was a 257 percent increase in the number of vegan food and beverage launches in 2016, compared to five years ago, and many brands have attempted to break into the healthy frozen food space. Organic brands like Annie’s Homegrown has a line of pizza bites with no artificial ingredients, and made mac ‘n’ cheese healthyish before being bought by General Mills. Kashi boasts a fiber-rich line of frozen waffles; and plant-based brand Amy’s has meals you can defrost for breakfast, lunch and dinner from apple toaster pops to a black bean burritos and vegetable lasagna, but none deliver.

Daily Harvest superfoodies can opt to order six to 24 cups weekly at $7.99 each, or monthly (approximately 24 cups) for $6.99. You can choose a combination any snack or meal, like the immunity-boosting tomato minestrone packed with veggies like zucchini, tomatoes and chickpeas; a cacao and avocado pudding said to taste like chocolate and loaded with pea protein; or sundaes like chocolate brownie batter made with cocoa, black beans, hemp protein and coconut. Each require minimal prepping effort — just add water and heat soups, smoothies need a liquid base like milk added before being tossed into a blender; and grain bowls can simply be microwaved or sautéed on the stove.

“Each is meant to be a nutritional powerhouse that’s a balance of fiber, healthy fats and all the things you really need to sustain yourself so you don’t get a sugar high and crash,” says Drori.

The frozen fast food has attracted a handful of celebrity investors. Tennis ace Williams, who expressed interest in the brand earlier this year, personally called Drori.

“With Serena I got an email from her now husband [Alexis Ohanian] who simply said ‘I absolutely love your product.’ He said ‘My girlfriend is also obsessed. I’d love for you to talk to her,’” Drori recalls. “I got on the phone with Serena Williams and she wanted to invest.”

Nutritionists say eating frozen fruits and veggies is actually better for you. New research from the University of Georgia found that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts with some even retaining more nutrients, particularly when it comes to vitamin A.

“I totally advocate for freezing fruits and vegetables. What happens is they’re picked at the height of ripeness and flash frozen so they preserve the nutrients better as opposed to sitting in trucks or on the supermarket shelf,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Lisa Young.

Drori predicts the hot new superfood of the new year will be the unassuming ingredient pine pollen, a nutritive adaptogen tonic powder collected from pine trees and consumed as a dietary supplement. It’s said to help the body cope with stress.

“You can put it in anything. It has barely any taste and it’s just really wonderful,” she says.

Source: Moneyish

Kroger is taking a direct shot at Amazon and Walmart and making checkout lanes obsolete

Kroger is beating Amazon and Walmart in the race to give shoppers a cashier-free shopping experience.

In 2018, the grocery chain is rolling out a new service to 400 stores that will enable shoppers to scan and pay for their items without checkout lanes, registers, or cashiers.

Here’s how it works: shoppers scan the barcodes of items they wish to purchase using a handheld scanner, provided by Kroger, or the chain’s “Scan, Bag, Go” app on any smartphone.

The technology will keep a running tab of shoppers’ total order and offer applicable coupons. It will also eventually alert customers when they walk past an item on their shopping list.

When customers are finished shopping, they can visit a self-checkout register to pay for their order. Soon, shoppers will be able to skip that step and provide payment through the app instead, the company said. That means they won’t have to stand in line or visit a register at any point during their shopping trip.

Scan Bag Go 4Shoppers can scan the barcodes of items they wish to purchase using a handheld scanner, provided by Kroger, or the chain’s “Scan, Bag, Go” app on any smartphone. Kroger

Amazon revealed plans in December to introduce a similar technology to its own brick-and-mortar grocery concept, called Amazon Go, which is still in the planning phases.

Walmart is also testing its own cashier-less technology in more than a dozen stores in Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky.

Kroger will be the first to offer the technology to a mass market, however, when it expands the “Scan, Bag, Go” program to 400 of its more than 2,700 stores in 2018.

Source: Business Insider