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Can Whole Foods hang on to the upmarket shopper.png

5 things: Can Whole Foods hang on to the upmarket shopper?

Here’s 5 things you may have missed in grocery

Not the Whole paycheck? Many retailers are slashing prices these days due to the continuing pain of inflation felt by consumers…and evidently Whole Foods is not immune. Forbes reports that Whole Foods “is increasing the number of promotions it offers and making its private label goods more affordable.” It’s a move that seems to indicate increased price sensitivity even among the upmarket grocery shopper; a phenomenon that started driving shoppers to Aldi following the last economic downturn and that now seems to be pushing the same customer to give their dollars to Walmart, as the retail giant’s strong Q1 earnings report indicates. —Chloe Riley

Walmart’s bid for the high-income shopper: Higher-income shoppers have changed the landscape of Walmart stores, particularly when it comes to groceries. Walmart just announced a robust first quarter in 2024, and Wall Street responded by propelling the company’s stock to all-time highs. The retailer has made some strategic moves to attract those with a deeper pocketbook, like more affluent displays on the store floor and the recent launch of its new private label line Bettergoods. But former Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon told CNBC he’s not sure Walmart will be able to hang onto that demographic. Simon said he believes they are there for a reason, and that reason is inflation. Inflation can get its hooks into anybody, Simon said, even those who have a little more sparkle in the jewelry box. The ex-CEO said Walmart’s strengths lie in convenience, cost, and assortment…not service. Service, he said, will be the key to getting those higher-income shoppers to stay once the economy improves. —Bill Wilson

Massachusetts consumers feeling the pinch: Massachusetts residents, particularly those in the Boston area, have been grappling with a significant surge in grocery prices, far exceeding the national inflation rate, which has fallen since a year ago. A significant contributing factor to this dilemma is the absence of a powerful supermarket chain capable of driving down prices through size and market influence, the Boston Globe reports. Consumers are feeling their pockets tighten, and many are frustrated over the steep increase in prices, especially for essentials like meat. Despite challenges stemming from supply chain disruptions, global conflicts, and high energy costs unique to the region, regulatory laws further exacerbate the situation, impacting affordability. Retailers like Stop & Shop, one of the major players in the Massachusetts market, have tried to alleviate the burden through loyalty programs and have provided some relief. Still, many households feel pressured to adjust their purchasing behaviors, opting for cheaper alternatives or cutting out certain items altogether. Financially, this presents a significant challenge, forcing families to reconsider their budgets and change their purchasing habits. —Ally MacConchie

Supermarkets and restaurants continue to converge: Sushi-making machines. Avocado bread. Robots that make and serve coffee. And lots and lots of plant-based food of all types, including several varieties of faux seafood. That’s what was on exhibit at the recent National Restaurant Show in Chicago, where me and my 60,000 closest friends were treated to the latest in products, services and tech supporting the industry. Noshing my way through more than 2,000 booths, I saw dozens of traditional grocery retailers. Many more than the last time I attended the event five years ago. And many vendors are now specifically catering to retail, those with physical or digital stores as well as restaurants that have a portion of their locations devoted to merchandising products. A few other highlights were all the varieties of Matcha in the Japanese pavilion, the DIY Guacamole Bar in the Avocados from Mexico booth, and a grilled cheese sandwich with birria sauce (which is apparently a big thing). One extreme low point was when I tried vegan charcuterie – it looked kind of like the real thing but tasted so bad I actually had to spit it out. —Ron Margulis

Let the bot do the work: If you want to gain a leg up in the grocery delivery business, get a bot or two. Ted Rosner, a gig worker in the Washington, D.C., area, purchased his first bot for $400 upfront. But, you’re asking: why? The bots allow Rosner, and other Instacart shoppers to do things like automatically refresh the screen to get more orders on Instacart, something you can’t do while driving. Instacart ultimately caught up with the work around and made it so that once workers logged out they would not be allowed to log back in. Rosner, however, did not let that stop him. He purchased a second bot from a different company and has been filling orders with it ever since. Rosner said he believes the only way you can compete as a delivery app shopper is to have a bot in your corner, and the costs far outweigh being sent to the end of the shopper line.—BW 

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