“Baldor Forager is an electronic kiosk within select Whole Foods produce departments, that allows shoppers to custom order (on a tablet) the unique fruits or vegetables that are not normally stocked in-store, and that item can be available for pick up at the store a day or two later,” Benjamin Walker, senior director of marketing and development at Baldor Specialty Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
It’s no secret that US consumer tastes have been growing more daring, boosted by the rise of multicultural Millennials as noted by Mintel as well as the ‘home cooking revolution’ documented by Better Homes & Gardens.
Testing these macrotrends, Baldor and Whole Foods launched the first Baldor Forager service in July 2016 at Whole Foods Williamsburg. Today, the platform is being tested in two additional locations: The Whole Foods in Bryant Park in Manhattan’s Midtown, as well as Philadelphia—the last three store openings in the NYC area “so the stores were built and designed with the Forager in mind,” Walker said.
Blurring the lines of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar
The share of groceries bought online is stubbornly small compared to brick-and-mortar, and it’s only been inching up, with IRI forecasting online food and beverage grocery’s share to make up 2.7% of all sales by 2020 (compared to 9.3% for non-food grocery sales).
Several companies, such as Baldor Specialty Foods and Whole Foods, are innovating new methods that blend online and brick-and-mortar components.
Another example is Amazon Go, the e-retailing giant’s pilot store in Seattle, currently open to employees only, without any check-outs. Instead, shoppers simply grab what they need and walk out; sensors will track their purchases and deduct it automatically from the shopper’s phone-linked bank account.
Grocery retailers up their game in bespoke service
Personalization is another key trend that market analysts are encouraging retailers to embrace in order to stay relevant.
Grocery retailers are in tough competition against the foodservice industry—according to data by Technomic, spending at the former has dropped from 56.5% of food dollars three decades ago to 49.4% today, while the latter experienced an increase from 40% to 50.6% in the same time period.
Services available to grocery retailers include DinnerCall, an app that lets consumers order ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat dinners from grocery stores, mimicking the increasing trend towards meal kit delivery services (also suspect of stealing away shoppers from grocery stores).
The Baldor Forager service checks off most of these trend boxes, and it has garnered positive feedback from both media and shoppers. Will the service gain traction? “[It’s still] too early to provide any metrics,” Walker said. “Ask us in a year and I will let you know! It’s too early to tell but we are very excited and our customers seem to be as well.”