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Outpost's Board of Directors will use this blog to discuss issues the board is exploring as it envisions Outpost's future. Can't make it to a meeting? Check here frequently to read what the Board is up to. Your current Outpost Board of...
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Have you ever thought about the future of the grocery world?

Board Beet
By Your Board on July 26, 2017

Have you ever thought about the future of the grocery world?

Can you imagine a day when you no longer go into a grocery store, but instead, your groceries come to you, delivered by a drone? Do you ever wish for such a day or do you dread it? These are some of the questions that were posed at the Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference (CCMA) in Minneapolis by the keynote speaker Michael Sansolo. Sansolo, an expert in the retail food industry, opened with the topic: “Surviving the Brave New World of Retail."

Sansolo began his talk by reviewing some industries which have had to adapt their businesses in order to continue to engage with their customers and thereby stay profitable.

He began with the banking industry. He talked about the past business model where customers had to come into the bank to get their banking done, and then he contrasted this to the new model where customers could bank online. Similarly, he outlined the change in the movie industry. He talked about the walk-in theater, the drive-in theater, the video store, and then streaming video. He talked about walking into a travel agency in the past, but today buying tickets online. He talked about ordering clothes and detergent online. With each of these examples, Sansolo illustrated how industries have moved to the online world in order to stay relevant and profitable.

People want their “stuff” to come to them with one click, rather than having to leave the house to acquire it. Sansolo presented the situation today: Given the convenience of e-commerce, the consumer needs a really good reason to go to a store and park their car.

Grocery stores are moving slowly to the online world. The short shelf life of fresh produce makes moving to the online experience a bit tricky both for the grocery store and for the consumer. How can the grocery store provide the exact ripeness of an avocado and how can the consumer foresee the ripeness of the avocado on the day that it arrives? It is interesting that value added services such as grocery delivery or meal-kit preparation have become very popular.

Sansolo explained that customers who come into the store are not just looking to buy groceries, but that they want a food experience. Grocery stores are providing more value to the customer by hosting events to draw the customers to the store and giving them that reason to get off their couch. The draw of the grocery store is its value added event or service and it is not necessarily the product - the avocado - that is what’s attracting the customer. It’s the guacamole.

Sansolo’s presentation made me wonder: As a cooperative, how do our owners want to engage with Outpost as we move into the future? What is the right way to engage owners with their co-op?

It is important that all of us take some time to think about the future of food retail with respect to our ownership at Outpost. Are we looking to engage from home or within the stores? What would be lost if we bought our groceries online and what would be gained? How will our decisions affect the health of our community and environment? How will e-commerce change our current food systems?

Sansolo ended his presentation by saying that no one is quite sure about the future of the grocery world and its ability to shift suddenly with the drop of a hat. He advised us to stay aware of the trends, and to be open to the possibility of drone delivery or 3D food. Embrace the changes, but be cautious.


Swati Agterberg

Board Director


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