Wasting food is a sin…
As a father of three girls and husband to a busy wife, I have adopted much of the cooking duties in my house. At first, I hated the idea, but I learned to love it. The creativity, the complexity, the fun of experimentation. Well, since I had been performing so well, my wife lovingly assigned me grocery shopping as well. Oh joy! This new role opened my eyes to the other side of the eating equation…the grocery store. The experience, the costs, the complete aggrivation. I am commercial real estate guy with a tech start up. You are gonna tell me that this antiquated relic of an industrial age advancement isn’t ripe (food pun #1, try and see how many I can fit in!) for disruption (buzzword!)!!
Oh Kale No!!!
Hence this dilemma which has been nagging at me for some time now. The notion that the epidemic of food watsed in this country (guilty as charged) and the antiquated nature of the gorcery store are somehow inexplicapbly linked. The US watses about 35 million tons of food per year, per this Washintgon Post article. Let that sink in…35 effing TONS of food. I’m sorry that is just sinful. That’s one part of the problem.
Let’s examine the other. The actual grocery store itself. Virtually unchanged since the introduction of their current iteration back in 1916. These sprawling mazes of aisles and shelves and display cases are the absolute worst. Pushing terrible, half broken metal carts down ever narrowing aisles trying to find the one thing you need in a sea of products, while interacting as little as possible with your fellow man. It has to be one the worst experiences ever. I personally hate it. I get it though, the concept of it all. And the wonderul efficiencies and economies of scale it produces. But the whole thing is nuts. Examine closer at what is happening. Preportioned items are available for your purchase and consumption. A 14 ounce can of diced tomatos, 1.27 pounds of ground beef, 6 taco shell dinner kit. I also get that the manufacturers of the items enjoy efficiencies with producing and selling predetermined increments. And the grocery business is a pennies game.
Think about this one thing though. A father of four has planned his meals for the week (don’t tell the other guys but that Pinterest is the shiznit). He knows how much his 5 year old daughter will eat all the way up to what he wants. When you cook often enough, you get a sense for these things. But, I can’t buy like that. If I need an ingredient for a meal, I am forced to buy the amount determined by the seller or dictated by the grocer. This results in my contribution to that 35 billion TONS of wasted food a year. Or put another way, roughly $70 BILLION lost (assume $1 per pound)!!! Holy shit that’s not acceptable!! I mean, that is bananas!
What is the fix? (My Gary V moment)
I was sipping my morning coffee and got an email with some “Medium’s I would be interested in..” which included this entitled Here Is How Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores Can Survive by the Gary Vaynerchuck, in which he discusses his ideas on how bookstores should reinvent themselves by using their space for more engaging activities. This struck such a gourd with me, as this is the idea I have been thinking about for grocery stores for some time. Technology is allowing us the oppotunity for business to get closer and closer to their cutsomers. Delivery channels, marketing, inventory systems have all been given steriods. Once barriers to entry are simply no longer factors. What if grocery stores acted more like Apple stores. You go in, get to see some demos, or enter in what you are making that week and preorder, having it portioned to your needs and waiting for pick up or a delivery. No aisles to wander. You get to ask professionals their opinions. Or watch a demo, or better yet taste something new! (I mean, who doesnt always buy the thing that is being sampled!! That system works!). Efficient usage of the floor space will allow increases in sales per square foot and reduce expenses saving some serious dough! Areas could be designated for pick up versus browsing, saving people time. I understand that there are so many variables to this. But $70 some billion dollars per year is not something that can be ignored. And just imagine the impact on the obesity epidemic im this country.
Just food for thought.
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I think that was like 5 food puns. You’re welcome Internet!