Instacart co-founder Max Mullen went head to head this week with Glen's Garden Market founder Danielle Vogel in Lunch Agenda's first live debate, about the future of the grocery distribution industry. Over the past five years, we’ve seen mega-retailers like Target and Walmart become increasingly significant players in the grocery space and come to sell even more organic food nationally than natural-oriented grocery chains. We most recently have watched Amazon’s take over of Whole Foods lead to changes in the chain’s product assortment, and pilots of cashier-less grocery stores.
So what should we as consumers expect next? Will brick and mortar grocery stores continue to be a viable model, or will customers increasingly stay home and order our food online? And most importantly for Lunch Agenda listeners, who believe in voting with our dollars, which model do we want to use for getting groceries to our homes 10, 20, and 50 years from now?
We all know this was not an apples-to-apples debate, as we heard about one model of grocery distribution that is a single store in one neighborhood of one city, and then about another model that has just raised $350 million more to continue expansion across the US and Canada. But I came away with clearer understanding of the key values and priorities championed by each founder's approach to getting us our groceries. With Instacart, it's being able to source groceries from many stores, while saving time in the process. And with Glen's, its the relationships forged between the "locals" (store staff) and "neighbors" (customers), not to mention the good feeling of minimizing environmental impacts and supporting food entrepreneurs from close by.
Max's sound bite:
“What we’ve found is that people want to get their groceries delivered. People have a preference on which store they shop at, and everyone shops at more than one store. Instacart allows you to use time to do the other things that are important in their life.”
Danielle's sound bite:
“It is true that people want convenience and they want price point. On those two things, I’ll never be able to compete. And I can’t compete on product mix, because you’re never going to find Cheerios, Doritos or Coca Cola on our shelves. That being said, we can compete all day on culture and community...that doesn’t communicate through a delivery service.”
Kiko's Food News headlines: