The Grocery Biz 2018: a half disruptor

Which fun looking cereal should I pick? Oh yeah, I just fulfill orders, doesn't matter to me...

Brand managers invests millions of marketing dollars for one warehouse staffer.

Any category disruptor is a hot topic right now. I want to discuss a category that is only half-disrupted — the web grocery business. Imagine if Uber was just an app that dispatched existing yellow taxis? Instead Uber and Lyft are complete disrupters. They have their own technology backend, distinct vehicles, and own driver network.

The other day I was playing grocery Tetris with a just-delivered internet order. As I emptied the bin contents, I was struck by the colourful, wasteful packaging. These are web-sourced groceries. There is no reason for them to be the same packaged product that I find in a bricks & mortar grocer.
As the post WW II middle-class surged, so did their food demands and buying power. If you want a full essay on packaged groceries, see Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America by Michael Ruhlman for a great synopsis. Suffice to say, colourful, wasteful grocery packaging has been the norm for 60+ years in a bid to capture your in-store attention.
But in the disrupted web-grocery age, why bother? A raw unbleached cardboard box with a simple content/prep sticker would suffice. It would save the makers oodles of money and the environment. Innovative bricks and mortar grocers like Vancouver-based Nada built their brand around unpackaging. Why can’t web grocers follow suit?
Brand managers must lose their minds when they see the image at top of page. They’ve invested millions of marketing dollars on one warehouse staffer.
This got me thinking about my own promo product and custom merchandise world. We are changing at light-speed. But are our disrupted systems leaving part or parts in the 1950s? Almost our entire industry is online with catalogue offerings. Yet many of our suppliers and makers still print paper catalogues. One of the biggest distributors (my competitor – sort of) direct mails hundreds of thousands of catalogues quarterly. Its wasteful and the usefulness is questionable.
In the comments below please share an example of where you see my industry failing to fully inovate. Or share an example from your category or company. Let’s all grow and improve together. – rich patterson

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