AISLE CHATTER

Karen is the director of marketing/digital strategy and the specialty foods editor at Food World and Food Trade News. With many years under her belt in the hospitality, food & beverage, and retail food industries, she transitioned to the media side of the business in 2011. She can be reached at karen@foodtradenews.com.

With the grocery industry being such an overstored and competitive landscape, retailers are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their rivals. As the search for the unicorn demographic seems to be an endless process, maybe one such shopper that supermarkets with an online presence can hone in on is the one that is three sheets to the wind?

Late last month The Hustle, a non-traditional media website that features topical stories and news somewhat on the fringe, conducted a survey of 2,174 of its alcohol-consuming readers. Of those that participated in it, the average respondent was found to be 36 years old with an income of $92,000 (more than twice that of the national average) with 53 percent being male and 47 percent being female. 

The quick takeaways are as follows: 79 percent  of alcohol consumers have made at least one drunk purchase, the average annual spend per drunk shopper was $444clothing and shoes  are the most common drunk purchases and not surprisingly, Amazon  is the drunk shopping platform of choice. Women were found to be only slightly more likely than men to drunk shop, but men on average spenmore money when they do buy while inebriatedDrunk shoppers tend to be younger with Millennials running up a tab while under the influence 13 percent more often than Baby Boomers. The older drunk shoppers, however, outspend their younger counterparts by an average of $150 per year.

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The key finding, according to The Hustle, is that drunk shopping is an estimated  $45 billion per year industry. While this study’s sample size and demographic may be too limited to truly make such a definitive conclusion, the results are nonetheless interesting and could have merchants thinking outside of the box on how to capture these shoppers.

Walmart has announced it is launching new voice-activated grocery shopping capability that is unimaginatively called Voice Order.” It will allow customers to add items to their virtual grocery cart by speaking to their Google Assistantavailable across several devices including Android phones, iPhones, Google Home Hub and smart watches. The voice app is meant to be used to round-up items for a later purchase by adding them to a cart, instead of forcing a checkout upon each new addition.

“We know when using voice technology, customers like to add items to their cart one at a time over a few days — not complete their shopping for the week all at once,” stated Tom Wardsenior vice president of digital operations for Walmart. “Best of all, customers can be extra confident that we can quickly and accurately identify the items they are asking for with the help of information from their prior purchases with us.” Ward continued, “The more you use it, the better we’ll get.” 

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Voice-activated shopping for grocery pickup will be offered at more than 2,100 Walmart stores and for online delivery at more than 800 stores. And so the fierce grocery AI race continues… 

April is National Volunteer Month, and therefore I think it is only fitting that I call attention to a local industry project in which volunteers form the backbone of the program. Every year, “Bags of Love” has been donating boxes of groceries to communities in Maryland, Virginia and DC. The annual event is an initiative of the international foods distributor EMD Sales that was started in 2009. 

Last month, 800 boxes were packed with assorted food items which were then donated to less fortunate families in the area. These recipients were selected by charitable, religious and governmental organizations. The distribution of the care packages, with the purpose of bringing the families to a location close to their neighborhoods to enjoy the support of the business community, took place in 34 locations in the DMV area. Each family receivea box with almost 60 pounds of groceries generously donated by some of EMD’s vendors and partners, along with a $25 gift card for perishables provided by local sponsors. 

From the food industry, the sponsors consisted of: Giant Food, Safeway Eastern and the Safeway Foundation, Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, Americana Grocery, Mega Supermarkets, and The Market at Highlandtown. Other sponsors included: BB&T BankBGE, Organizacion de Latinos at Exelon (“OLE”), McDonald’s, Metro PCS, Boost Mobile, Boss Revolution, Tigo, Tele Cel, Maryland Auto Insurance, State Farm Insurance, Amerigroup, and Crisp and Juicy. 

Additionally, more than 120 volunteers were on hand during packing day to fill the boxes with the donated groceries before distribution. “The best part about ‘Bags of Love’ is its ability to unite the business community for a common goal,” noted Elda Devarie, founder and president of EMD Sales. “Competitors in all areas of business and media come together to give love.” 

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not highlight an institution that is celebrating a hard earned and well-deserved milestone. The Maryland Food Bank (MFB), the East Coast’s first food bank, is celebrating a its 40th anniversary this year! What started in 1979 with the distribution of donuts from a garage in Baltimore City has evolved into an organization that oversees a statewide network of food assistance that brings enough resources and partners together to distribute the equivalent of 102,000 meals every day and more than 37 million annually.

To commemorate its 40 years in existence on April 18, the non-profit will be launching a 40-week statewide campaign with the theme “It Takes More Than Food to End Hunger” at one of its most dedicated network partner organizations in BaltimoreOver the last four decades, the issue of hunger has grown increasingly complex. Today, MFB serves more children who would otherwise go to school hungry, more seniors who are forced to choose between medicine and food, and more working families who work long hours, yet are still unable to make ends meet. Despite a strong economy in recent years, one in every nine individuals — some 665,000 Marylanders — still struggle to put food on the table. 

The food bank will be traveling across the state during this campaign, hosting events in Baltimore, Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore to both bring attention to the sobering statistics of hunger and to also introduce MFB’s new five-year strategic plan during its tour. “Our 40th anniversary is an opportunity for both celebration and reflection,” said MFB president and CEO Carmen Del Guercio. “We’re proud of our success over the last 40 years, but as we saw with the recent government shutdown, there is a fine line between food security and facing hunger. Given how vital our food assistance safety net has become, this is an ideal time to recommit to our vision and redouble our efforts.” Del Guercio continued, “We know there is more to our mission than distributing food. During our anniversary celebration, we’ll shine a spotlight on all of the different components it takes to end hunger, including our innovative programs and collaborative partnerships that have enabled us to reduce hunger all over the state.” 

Two food donors in particular that have been absolutely vital to the MFB’s operations are Giant Food and Perdue, who, in recognition of their long-term partnerships, will be marking the 40thanniversary with a Lead Gift (a contribution of $250,000 or more to support the future growth of the food bank over the next five years). Both Perdue and Giant have been firm supporters of the MFB since the eighties, not just with generous financial assistance but through heavy volunteerism as well. Congratulations to the Maryland Food Bank on 40 years – your continued growth and success is a testament to the character of your mission. 

Until next month…