Wednesday, August 29, 2018

United Natural Foods to acquire Supervalu

United Natural Foods announced that it plans to acquire Supervalu for $2.9 billion in cash. According to Supermarket News, the deal would create a large, diverse food distributor serving traditional grocery stores via Supervalu, and natural/organic product retailers though United Natural Foods, whose primary customer is Whole Foods.

The acquisition is expected to result in Supervalu's exit from the grocery retail business. Supervalu operates 114 supermarkets under the Cub Foods, Hornbacher's and Shoppers banners. Save-A-Lot had been owned by Supervalu until 2016 when it was acquired by Onex Corporation.

In recent years Supervalu has struggled to compete with larger grocery companies and online food retailers, and as a result has stepped up its wholesale operations. Wholesaling now accounts for 78% of total sales, up from about 44% two years ago. The company's wholesale arm serves a network of 3,437 stores.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

Aldi planning a major product expansion in 2019

Earlier this month Aldi announced a major product expansion to go along with its ongoing efforts to open new stores and upgrade existing locations. With the product expansion, slated to roll out early next year, Aldi says 20% of items in every store will be new when compared to the product mix during the same time one year prior.

The effort will focus on fresh, organic and easy-to-prepare offerings, and will boost the store's selection of fresh food by 40%. For instance, Aldi says it will have more ready-to-cook and organic fresh meat, a bigger assortment of produce, such as ready-to-eat sliced fruit and organic selections, and new vegan and vegetarian options such as kale and quinoa burgers, and chickenless patties and tenders.

Aldi also plans to offer a broader array of grab-and-go items like single-serve guacamole and organic hummus, fresh fruit and vegetable packs, fresh organic salsa, antipasti salad, as well as more drinks and refrigerated beverages. The retailer also said it will have one of the nation's largest selections of private label milk alternatives.

"We're in the middle of a five-year growth program, where we're opening over 800 stores to get to just under 2,500 stores by the end of 2022," said CEO Jason Hart. "We're spending a lot of money on that: $3.4 billion invested into new unit growth and $1.9 billion into the existing network of stores to remake the shopping experience, to give it a modern market feel and a little more space. We're adding about 20% more square footage to the stores."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Walmart testing self-driving cars and robots

Walmart's vice president of digital operations said late last month that the company plans to pilot an online grocery service with self-driving cars that pick up customers at their homes and take them to the store to collect their orders. Walmart plans to test the service in Chandler, AZ with Waymo, formerly Google's self-driving car project.

A customer in the pilot program would order his/her groceries at, choose online grocery pickup and select a pickup time. A personal shopper gathers the items, and then a Waymo vehicle picks up the customer, brings him/her to the selected store to get the groceries, and drives the customer back home.

Waymo has also teamed up with shopping center owner DDR, which will offer rides in Waymo self-driving vehicles to Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center in Chandler.

One week after the announcement, Walmart revealed that it plans to test a program that would have robots bring products to its in-store personal shoppers in an effort to speed up online grocery pickup.

An automated storage and retrieval system, developed by Alert Innovation for Walmart, is being installed at a Walmart supercenter in Salem, NH, where it is adding 20,000 square feet to house the system, warehouse online grocery orders, and serve as a pickup point with drive-thru lanes for customers.

A Walmart spokesperson said that "the vast majority of grocery products we offer in-store will be fulfilled through this system, though our personal shoppers will still hand-pick produce and other fresh items."

The Salem store remodel will also include pickup towers for online orders; an automated shelf-scanner that helps identify out-of-stock items, incorrect labels and missing labels; and Walmart's FAST unloader system to get products to the sales floor more quickly.

Amazon launches 30-minute curbside pickup at Whole Foods

Amazon announced earlier this month that it has launched a new curbside pickup service for Amazon Prime members at select Whole Foods stores. The service is currently available in Sacramento, CA and Virginia Beach, VA, and Amazon plans to expand it to other cities later this year.

Through the service, customers can place orders via Amazon's Prime Now app and have their groceries loaded into their car when they arrive at Whole Foods. Pick-up in an hour is free for orders of $35 or more, and $1.99 on orders less than $35. A 30-minute window is available for $4.99 with no minimum order.

Amazon also announced that in markets served by Prime Now, Prime customers can order from Whole Foods using Amazon Echo smart speakers and have the items delivered within two hours.

Weis Markets launching same-day delivery via Shipt

Weis Markets announced that it will rollout same-day delivery via Shipt beginning on September 6 in 11 markets throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Shipt, based in Alabama and owned by Target, said the rollout will give nearly 2.6 million households access to products delivered from Weis in as soon as one hour.

The same-day service will serve as another online option for Wies customers, as the supermarket chain already has its Weis 2 Go click-and-collect grocery service available at about 90 stores. Weis operates 2016 stores in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Virginia.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Kroger partners with China e-commerce giant Alibaba

Kroger announced last week that it plans to test sales of its Simple Truth natural and organic brand  through Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce retailer. The move will give Alibaba's 500+ million Chinese consumers access to Kroger's Simple Truth brand.

Kroger pointed out that the partnership supports its strategic plan to redefine the grocery customer experience by growing its private brand program, creating customer value and driving top-line growth via alternative revenue streams.

The Alibaba deal also means that Kroger is following Walmart and Amazon, who have significantly boosted their e-commerce presence in lucrative foreign markets.

Two women visited all 97 Wegmans stores in one week

According to several news reports, two "Wegmaniacs" decided to spend their vacation time by visiting all 97 Wegmans stores in one week. Yes, two women traveled nearly 4,000 miles in six states doing nothing but driving to and from Wegmans.

Apparently they documented their journey on Instagram. I don't know the account name, and I've already wasted enough of your time.