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5 things: When Instacart food photos go wrong

Here’s 5 things you may have missed in grocery

Insta-regrets on AI art? Instacart is doing an about face on its unappetizing decision to use AI-generated artwork to promote some of its food items. The unnerving out-of-this world food items look like something that would be consumed on an episode of Star Trek, and looking closely enough might turn a consumer’s stomach. Curly Tales, a website that reports on the food industry, posted photos of hot dogs with an extra layer of bun and meats with alien-looking textures. Other fun things you missed if you didn’t see these images before they were quietly removed – chocolate pretzels drizzled with what appears to be human excrement, tomato/hot dog hybrids, and chocolate chip cookies that have that uncanny valley quality that will ensure revulsion. Lesson learned? Graphic designers might have a few years left before they’re replaced with AI. —Timothy Inklebarger

A target on Target: Retail theft is increasingly an issue across the U.S. According to a recent WSJ article, shoplifting in Portland, Ore. spiked 22% during the opening months of 2023, and retailers like Nike, REI, and Target tried to work with Portland officials to fight crime but ended up closing stores in the end. Those retailers wanted more police presence and quicker response times, but so far the support has not been there from the city. In the end, all three retailers ended up closing stores in Portland, though for Target, the shuttered locations were not in high crime areas. Emails acquired by WSJ paint a dark daily picture for Portland Targets. One director said their store deals with property damage, person-to-person incidents, and drug use in the building on the regular. But the city of Portland is deflecting blame behind the closings, saying shifts in consumer spending and changes in strategy have also contributed to these issues. Perhaps the mayor needs to don a red Target uniform and step into an employee’s shoes for the day. —Bill Wilson

AI tackles packages: AI researchers are on the case to figure out how best to get packages to the doorsteps of consumers — whether that be a drone flying in from a pharmacy or a system that helps drivers anticipate when a parking spot is about to open up. This Wall Street Journal piece looks at multiple case studies where AI is being inserted more and more into retail delivery. Amazon has been delivering packages via drones since 2022 and plans to expand that program. Wing, the delivery-drone company from Google parent Alphabet, now uses AI to let the devices themselves decide the best place to leave packages. It’s starting to be an AI world. We humans are just living in it. —Chloe Riley

A cart of cash: I’m an Illinoisian and constantly come into contact with stories on how people are leaving this Lincoln-esque state because of the high taxes and overall high cost of living. The price for groceries also might be behind the U-haul convoy. According to the Census Bureau’s household pulse survey, Illinois ranks 18th in the country when it comes to average money spent weekly on groceries ($269.47). And while that is not the worst, it still accelerates the odometer on moving vans. California ($297.72), Nevada ($294.76), Mississippi ($290.64), Washington ($287.67), and Florida ($287.27) occupy the top five when it comes to grocery sticker shock. The average family shovels out $270 for food every seven or so days, but that number hits a tilt if kids are involved—it’s $331, which is 41% more than families sans kids. When you break it down into cities, Miami tops the scales for groceries at $327 a week. I think this all means that, wherever you go it’s going to take a loaded wallet to walk out of a store with bags of necessities. Americans should not have to think this hard about how many eggs they can buy. —BW

Go big or go home: Floridians living in the Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel got a bit of viral marketing in late January for the promotion of a new Publix grocery store opening up in the community, according to a story in the Miami Herald. One resident of the Epperson Lagoon neighborhood got video of an oversized novelty Publix grocery cart – it stands as tall as a monster truck – attached to a go-cart. As it cruised around the subdivision, the buggy blared “Nothin’ But a Good Time” by ‘80s hair-metal band Poison. At the time of the report, the video, which was posted to TikTok, had been viewed more than 300,000 times and had received hundreds of comments. One user noted: “This is so Florida.” –TI

TAGS: Marketing
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