In a world where disruption is the new normal, the grocery store has been slow to catch up. After some early and epic failures during the dot-com bust, the industry proceeded with caution, opting for “proven winner” approaches that offered customers convenience with less emphasis on risky innovations.
In recent years, while the Goliaths have been optimizing the delivery of preordered groceries to your door (i.e., Amazon, Kroger’s ClickList, Shipt and Instacart), some David-sized start-ups have been thinking even bigger — taking the grocery store itself to your door.
Well, not literally. Bay Area–based Robomart combines autonomous vehicles with grab-and-go and self-checkout features. Think of it as a high-tech ice cream truck selling groceries instead of snow cones. The latest idea from entrepreneur Ali Ahmed, Robomart enables wholesalers and big-box retailers to delight discerning customers — especially those who want the convenience of having groceries brought to them with the added bonus of being able to see the food (and squeeze that avocado!).
The greatest impact, though, may very well be coming from innovators looking to help people in need. Goodr, for example, tracks donations of surplus food from restaurants and supermarkets via app and secure blockchain technology. Since launching in January 2017, the company estimates it’s saved 900,000 pounds of food — about 850,000 meals — from going to waste. In a similar way, Feeding America’s MealConnect platform, which debuted in 2017, connects surplus food from businesses to local pantries and food programs. And KitcheNet uses community hubs in Chicago to distribute boxes of affordable fresh produce, which buyers choose and purchase online.
PHOTO ABOVE: Robomart