Robot Employees are the Latest Grocery Store Technology

2019 is proving to be an innovative year for the foodservice industry. Technological advances such as cashless stores and apps that help fill more restaurant seats with hungry diners aren’t the only latest trends.

Some of the latest innovations we’ve seen at Foodable are introducing technological advances, like robots, to the grocery store space.

Grocery chain Stop and Shop, is partnering with mobile market startup Robomart to bring a new method of grocery delivery to Boston this Spring. Instead of having customers order their groceries and deliver them to the door, customers will be able to order a remote-operated Robomart vehicle to their door via an app and pick out their own produce from a pre-stocked vehicle.

The Robomart app utilizes a patent-pending RFID “check-out free” system, charging customers automatically for items.

Another way technology is becoming more prevalent in the grocery store space is shown by Giant Food Stores.

Recently, the chain introduced a robot named Marty to its 172 United States stores. Marty is  built to roam around the store, looking for spills and trip hazards, which are reported to store employees. But that’s not all Marty can do, the robot can scan shelves for items that are out of stock, and perform price checks, looking for discrepancies between the shelf and the store’s scanning system.

Watch the video above to learn about other technological advances in the grocery store industry, and what companies are employing robots.

Produced by:

Rachel Brill

Rachel Brill

Social Producer


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Blue Apron's New Retail Line is Now Available on Jet.com's City Grocery Service

Blue Apron meal-kits from Jet.com |   Blue Apron

Blue Apron meal-kits from Jet.com | Blue Apron

Ever since the Blue Apron partnership with Walmart's Jet.com was announced late last year, the company’s meal-kits have been available on the retailer's online marketplace.

Jet.com became the first online retailer to sell the Blue Apron meal-kits, but Blue Apron tested a new product line dubbed "Knick Knacks" at Costco last May.

"We've completed our national retail pilot with Costco, which was our first opportunity to gain learnings and build competencies in expanding our product in the retail environment," said a spokeswoman for Blue Apron to "Grocery Dive." "Through our pilot with Costco we created our retail product which we were able to use as an entry point onto Jet's platform, and we also applied learnings from the Costco pilot to create our newest product, Knick Knacks."

The line has an extended shelf life and "bundles sauces, grains, dairy, spices and step-by-step recipes that customers then pair with their choice of a retailer's produce or protein."

However, the company paused the Costco test right before the holidays last year and has announced that this "national retail pilot" has come to an end.

Now, the meal-kit company is focusing more on online retail and the Knick Knacks product line is now available on Jet's City Grocery platform.

It's priced below most retail meal-kits at $7.99 for a two-person serving.

Although Blue Apron has made a play to increase its availability by partnering with other retailers, the company has struggled to gain subscribers and increase sales over the last year.

Blue Apron saw a 25 percent drop in subscribers last December compared to the year before.

Learn more about the company's new product line at "Grocery Dive" now.

Will Blue Apron ultimately make it in today's saturated market? Check out this past On Foodable: Industry Pulse episode about meal-kits as we explore whether or not this category will survive in the current state of the industry.

Will Thrive Market Become Amazon's Biggest Competitor in the Organic Food Space?

The E-commerce giant Amazon made its plans known to conquer the organic food space about a year ago when it acquired Whole Foods.

While the tech giant was working to revive the organic grocery chain, Thrive Market, the online grocery store specializing in natural and organic products, was quietly and rapidly expanding across the country.

Now, Thrive Market has expanded with new categories and is offering membership perks to compete with Amazon.

Customers pay $5 a month to be a Thrive member and are given access to a marketplace of all-natural foods, beverages, wines, supplements and medicines at a discount, ranging from 25 to 50 percent off. Thrive offers free two-day shipping too.

So what does Thrive Market offer that Amazon doesn't?

It's all about the products and how they are sourced.

“Amazon buying Whole Foods has created a big opportunity for us,” said Nick Green, the co-founder and CEO of Thrive Market. “Whole Foods has been the standard bearer for natural foods and organic products, but the challenge it has had is that many people don’t live near one, and many people can’t afford it. When you think about the Amazonification of Whole Foods, Amazon bought it for the real estate, and it’s tried to make it more accessible for everyone. That means you’re going to see different products on the shelves.”

Thrive Market won't be losing sight of its standards. All products on the marketplace are ethically sourced and non-GMO, along with other requirements.

“Already, Whole Foods shelves have Honey Nut Cheerios and Amazon Echos,” said Green.

Although Amazon has introduced products like these to the Whole Foods stores, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey recently said that the chain will be keeping niche products on the shelves that aren't found at common grocery stores.

“Not only are we not decreasing local foods, we’re increasing them," said Mackey to "Well + Good" in November.

But Amazon has lofty plans for Whole Foods and it is bound to change what products the chain carries.

“Amazon doesn’t want Whole Foods to be a top-five regional or specialty grocer,” said Cooper Smith, principal analyst at Gartner L2 to "Digiday." “It wants it to be a top-five national grocery chain. That’s going to impact the products you see being carried. National brands are hitting the shelves and are in talks whereas they might not have gotten a foot in before.”

According to Green, Thrive Market grew its 2018 revenue by 50 percent compared to the year prior.

See what else Thrive plans to do in the next year to become Whole Foods' biggest competitor at "Digiay" now.

But Amazon isn’t just going after the on-the-go consumer with its grocery deliveries, its cashier-less Amazon Go stores are going to pop-up across the country offering food options. Watch The Barron Report episode below to see how these stores will make an impact on restaurants, especially those in the QSR and fast casual segment.

Will Amazon Roll Out Bigger Cashier-less Amazon Go Stores?

When the tech giant Amazon rolled out its Amazon Go stores, the company was on the verge of changing traditional retail as it did with the E-commerce space.

These stores allow customers to pick up items and they don't have to go to a cashier, instead, they are charged automatically for the items they leave with.

However, the first Amazon Go stores in Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco were delayed in 2017 because the company struggled with having more than 20 people inside.

According to a recent report from the "Wall Street Journal," the store's technology has trouble in "bigger spaces with higher ceilings and more products.”

But that isn't stopping Amazon from developing larger spaces with more products and the company has started testing in “a larger space formatted like a big store," as "WSJ" reports.

Watch the recent episode of The Barron Report above to learn more about the Amazon Go stores and how these cashier-less stores are changing the retail space forever.

The company has said that it isn't going to use this technology at Whole Foods, the organic grocery chain it acquired in June 2017.

But could that have changed after the success of Amazon Go stores?

Read more about Amazon potentially expanding the size of its Amazon Go stores at “The Verge” now.

Nonetheless, Amazon has aggressive plans to roll out up to 3,000 of cashier-less stores by 2021.

But these stores aren't just a threat to grocery stores and convenience stores. Many of the cashier-less Amazon Go stores offer grab-and-go food options and these stores have become the most popular during the workweek, especially at lunchtime. This means these stores are taking away the restaurant business.

Walmart is also testing a cashier-less concept at Sam's Club stores where shoppers will use an app to scan items as they shop.

How Amazon's Whole Foods Plans to Enhance its Grocery Shopping Experience

When the tech giant acquired Whole Foods, it rocked the industry.

Not only did grocery chains have to now compete with the E-commerce giant, but Whole Foods customers weren't sure what the future held for the organic grocery store.

Were the same unique products going to be sold? Whole Foods grew in popularity because it was the only store that sold certain specialty food products.

But, apparently, customers shouldn't be worried about Whole Foods and the niche products on the shelves. Whole Foods will continue to sell local food products that you often can't find at a common grocery chain.

“This became a media narrative that wasn’t based on anything, truthfully, except for anecdotes of customers who would come in, couldn’t find a local product, and somehow think Amazon forced us to drop them,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO to "Well + Good." “Not only are we not decreasing local foods, we’re increasing them.”

Whole Foods is ramping up its selection of vegan and plant-based products. The grocery chain recently published a plant-based recipe book to encourage a veggie-focused lifestyle.

Whole Foods with the help of its tech parent company will also be using customer feedback to improve stores.

“People can get whatever food they want, whenever they want it, at a price they’re willing to pay,” said Mackey. As grocery stores continue to evolve, “I just think the consumer is going to rule. That’s where we’re heading. And quickly.”

Borrowing from Amazon's business model, the grocery chain will be more focused on customer service. The company has been ramping up the number of focus groups across the country to see what customers think about the store.

“The higher purpose of Amazon is to be the world’s most customer-centric company,” said Mackey. “They build their whole business model around [making] the customers happy, and Whole Foods is trying to do the same thing.”

Read more about how Whole Foods is trying to enhance the customer grocery shopping experience at "Well & Good."

We recently took a deep dive into how Amazon is taking away customers from both grocery stores and restaurants with cashier-less Amazon Go stores. These convenient stores offer grab-and-go food options and have become the most popular around lunch time.

Watch the video below to see how Amazon Go has become a threat to restaurant operators.