Recently the world’s 50 most innovative companies were ranked. Not surprisingly, the list includes a mix of technology, e-commerce, pharmaceutical & consumer products stalwarts. Of note, there are also some retailers: Wal*Mart, Target & Costco.
Is McDonald’s truly innovative? What about an energy conglomerate like Royal Dutch Shell? One focuses on speed, efficiency and taste variations to bring in more users while another focuses on large-scale investments & processes that can impact how we source & consume energy. Innovation can be defined in many ways, as I discuss on my website here. Innovation is the process of creating differentiation – what makes you meaningfully unique? And it requires something critical…Agility.
Agile Grocery Innovation
The release of COVID-19 from China, and the ensuing global pandemic, has sent shockwaves through all industries. Food retailers have been one of the hardest hit, having to revamp how they protect staff, support communities that are social distancing, provide services replacing entire industries (ie, home cooking vs. restaurants), manage supply chain upheaval (cleaning supplies, meat shortages) and changing their internal infrastructure to help comply with government mandates. Through all of this, food retailers have been deemed necessary to stay open to support communities, invested in their differentiation strategy and exhibited tremendous agility.
The attached article from Progressive Grocer details 20 examples of food retailer innovation and agility that is worth a read. I’m going to cover just three examples:
- Publix GreenWise Market. Publix is recognizing a growing trend among all generations, but driven by Generations Y and Z, regarding (1) the desire for better quality of ingredients (organic, natural) and (2) the desire for quick preparation. By offering a destination that combines better ingredients & freshly prepared meals, and supplementing those offerings with entertainment-rich foods like wines and cheeses, Publix is providing a destination for those that seek better meals, easily prepared and can be shared with family & friends during meaningful occasions.
- Kroger. Don’t lose sight of what Kroger is doing to drive digital grocery sales. A 92% increase in digital grocery sales during the previous quarter, an expanded partnership with Ocado (e-commerce provider) and a pick-up partnership with Walgreens shows Kroger is creating a unique and powerful business model.
- Amazon. Their recent earnings report was nothing short of astonishing. One analyst talked about how the pandemic has been like giving Amazon “a steroid injection.” On the grocery side, Amazon increased grocery delivery capacity by over 160% and tripled grocery pickup locations in the quarter. Their investments in creating a best-in-class logistics model continue through the growth of Amazon Air, combining over 70 aircraft with an on-the-ground distribution network of hubs and delivery vans that is creating a logistics infrastructure to rival the world’s best.
Innovative companies come in all sizes and industries. Each of these grocery examples are companies that are defining a strategy and demonstrating agility to create value and differentiation even under the most difficult of circumstances.