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Grocery Roundup: SpartanNash Gets Into Micro-Fulfillment, Sprouts Gets Into Contextual Commerce

With grocery eCommerce here to stay, major grocers are adapting to find more profitable ways to fulfill online orders. SpartanNash, the Michigan-Based grocery retailer and distributor that operates 149 supermarkets throughout the United States and abroad under a number of different banners, announced on Wednesday (July 14) its first micro-fulfillment center (MFC), a 55,000-square-foot facility that will fulfill orders for 24 of the company’s West Michigan grocery stores. The facility will hold 16,000 products and will pick and pack orders that come in through the company’s Fast Lane eCommerce platform.

“Fast Lane has been a tremendous value-add for our store guests, as the pandemic heightened the importance of safe, efficient grocery shopping, pickup and delivery,” Tony Sarsam, the company’s CEO and president, said in a statement. “The Micro-Fulfillment Center is an exciting investment designed to further elevate the Fast Lane shopping experience as we strive to continuously improve our fulfillment speed and product availability.”

Initiatives like these can help businesses meet the continued high demand for e-grocery. PYMNTS’ data from The Bring-It-to-Me Economy: How Online Marketplaces and Aggregators Drive Omnichannel Commerce, created in collaboration with Carat by Fiserv, found that 72 percent of grocery shoppers now order their groceries online for delivery. Additionally, 27 percent of these shoppers are ordering more groceries online to be delivered by local stores or delivery services now than before March 2020.

Sprouts Gets into Contextual Commerce With MyFitnessPal Partnership

Branded content is a quickly growing space in grocery. Take, for instance, Walmart’s recent partnership with Michelle Obama’s Netflix children’s food series, which brings animated characters into stores with augmented reality. Now, Sprouts Farmers Market, which operates over 360 health-centric grocery stores across 23 states, has partnered with popular diet and fitness tracking app MyFitnessPal to become the app’s first retail sponsor.

The companies announced their partnership on Tuesday (July 13), noting that joint content will include “healthy recipes, articles, challenges and more.” This contextual integration, guiding consumers toward Sprouts’ offerings in the course of their daily health and fitness tracking routine, opens up the opportunity for Sprouts to reach more consumers while directing them to specific products. The two companies have already partnered on recipe discovery tools. Now, they will collaborate on a series of blog posts recommending seasonal produce and other products.

“Through our marketing journey, we have identified [that] our core customers have begun to increase our digital communication and [we] are starting to see this resonate with target customers,” Sprouts CEO Jack Sinclair told analysts on a call in May. “Through our data sources, we continue to see positive trends, and data points suggested that we are winning disproportionately with our target customers.”

Ahold Delhaize-Tested Grocery Exosuits Raise $15M in Funding

Wearables company Verve Motion announced on Thursday (July 15) that it raised $15 million in its Series A funding raise to build and scale its grocery distribution solution, a software-enabled exosuit that uses motion sensors and robotics to protect the health and safety of workers. The company, which launched in 2020, was created by a group of Harvard engineers as well as scientists.

“Our mission is to advance worker safety and well-being by creating the next generation of wearable technology,” Ignacio Galiana, co-founder and CEO of Verve Motion, said in a statement. “This new round of funding will fuel the continued development of our solution and scale operations to meet the growing demand for our product in order to get it to the workers who need it most right now.”

The company recently partnered with ADUSA Supply Chain, the U.S. supply chain division of global grocery giant Ahold Delhaize, to pilot-test its exosuits at the company’s distribution centers. For the test, the grocery company’s “selectors,” people who put together orders to deliver to consumer-facing businesses, wore the suits, which aim to reduce the strain that heavy manual labor puts on workers’ bodies. Verve Motion describes this as a “very successful pilot.”

Giant Food Begins Accepting EBT SNAP for Digital Orders

Speaking of Ahold Delhaize, subsidiary Giant Food, which operates 164 supermarkets across Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., announced on Thursday (July 15) that it is accepting Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments for online delivery and pickup orders placed through the company’s digital ordering platforms or through Instacart.

“Convenience and value are of great importance at Giant,” Gregg Dorazio, director of eCommerce for Giant Food, commented, “and as online grocery demand continues at an all-time high, we are excited to make shopping more accessible for our SNAP customers on”

This move is part of a broader push across the grocery industry and beyond to solve the lack of eCommerce options for SNAP users. More grocers have been enabling online SNAP payments, with Instacart announcing in the spring a major expansion of its SNAP integration, and with Google getting in on the effort with educational tools and resources.

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