Could a robotic grocery store startup become a model for ending food deserts?
A startup that began with the idea of offering low-cost grocery delivery is now pursuing a tech-forward pivot into the realm of grocery pickup, with an eye toward addressing the problem of food deserts.
Shotput, based in Oakland, CA, began by leveraging UberEATS, Postmates and Caviar to deliver fresh groceries, as described in a press release from the company. Touting 30 percent week-over-week growth, the startup is planning to set up pickup points so that people can order food at work via its app and pick it up on the way home. Then, by the end of the year, Shotput intends to set up “robotic grocery stores” in office parks, train stations and parking lots. They intend to keep costs 30 percent lower than Safeway with the use of supply chain technology such as robotic shipping containers that can track packages in transit.
The company’s website bills Shotput as a “grab n’ go grocery store” and purports to cut out the middle man at every step of the way, yielding prices 40 to 60 percent lower than elsewhere on high-quality food. The site also offers price matching on any product they have available.
While the food desert challenge is generally associated with urban poverty, the press release and site display a list of offerings catering more to the Silicon Valley set than those struggling to make ends meet, such as pre-packaged meal kits, raw juices, cold-brew coffees and kombuch.
More conventional grocers have been implementing and incentivizing pickup recently as a way to meet customer demand for convenience while saving on the high cost of delivery. Walmart, for instance, has begun offering a program called Pickup Discount, which allows customers to get select items at a reduced price if they buy online and pickup in-store rather than opting for delivery.
Shotput is not the first startup to play with the idea of robotic grocery stores as a solution to food deserts. In 2015, an Iowa non-profit called Eat Greater Des Moines announced a partnership with a tech firm called Oasis24seven to place automated grocery stores in areas underserved by conventional grocers.
- Shotput using supply chain technology to solve the food desert problem – Upbeat PR
- Shotput Corner Store – Shotput Corner Store
- Robotic grocery store to open in Des Moines – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could app-based ordering with delivery to pickup points like Shotput plans to offer catch on as an alternative to traditional grocery shopping? Is it feasible for Shotput to keep its prices low through supply chain efficiency? Could Shotput’s concept provide a model for the alleviation of food deserts?