What could happen with the marriage of Amazon and Whole Foods?
Culture + Logistics = Better Food
Whole Foods has a culture of enabling healthy living through better food. Amazon has brought logistics to a new level and fundamentally changed how consumers view the retail experience.
At argodesign we are imagining what kinds of amazing products this marriage of talents can create.
As we considered this new merger of superbrands, we observed a public chorus of negativity. Maybe as Austin natives, having lived the story of Whole Foods transforming the grocery store over the past decades, we see it differently. We see opportunity: the products they create together could be a force for a positive change in how we eat and live.
The following is our vision outlining the opportunity: to create a radically positive and radically innovative retail experience around food, agriculture, and healthy living.
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Your fridge is now the point of sale
Placed on an exterior wall of the kitchen, the Echo Fresh is a new concept for the home refrigerator that pushes through the wall, eliminating the barrier a locked home presents to flexible food delivery. Through this controlled access, the Echo Fresh is provisioned from the outside by humans, drones, and sidewalk crawler robots.
This fridge is also packed with the sensing capabilities of Amazon Go, the store without cashiers. This moves the point of sale to the fridge’s own shelves. It's custom stocked for your personal tastes and organized to show pricing. You then buy simply by removing the items you want, or moving them to the side of the unit reserved for your private storage.
The predictive engines of Amazon, backed up by a range of order systems including voice, provision your pantry just-in-time. If you need Brussels sprouts a drone can bring them quickly from a neighbor’s unit. The ability for Whole Foods to source quality produce regionally enabled those Brussels sprouts to be fresh, organic, and in season.
This sensible base station for meal and ingredient delivery has a touch screen display on the door providing instructions, browsing and assistance making healthy eating choices.
Distributed storage is a revolution in perishables
Beyond the convenience of Echo Fresh and once the system reaches saturation, the distribution model for perishables can begin to look like that of dry goods. The neighborhood itself becomes the warehouse, and the prices for produce drop below that of prepared foods.
Distributed storage reduces spoilage by removing the wasted time perishables spend in transit, in the warehouse, and on store shelves. Spoilage is reduced again by changing purchase to at-the-time-of-use model. We can shift goods quickly to those ready to use them. Spoilage is a massive driver in the cost of produce.
Closing the field-to-shelf timing will also have an impact on the amount of resources dedicated to growing the many multiples of perishables currently needed to survive today's distribution channels and open the opportunity to grow a wider variety of crops by region and taste.
This will have a massive impact on the cost of goods. Produce once again can become the least expensive of staples. This will have a major impact on nutrition. The concept of food desert goes away
The field is in the garage
Within the same timeframe for this concept to take effect, autonomous vehicles could very well leave us with a lot of available light industrial space in suburban garages. Whole Foods backed by Amazon can put that space to work in order to create fields of fresh organic produce.
Homeowners subscribe to items in order to have access to the freshest goods. Amazon supplies the labor in much the same way they have begun installing home entertainment systems. Whole Foods meanwhile can use overgrowth to feed their supply system to Echo Fresh.
The fields now become even closer to the consumer, avoiding more spoilage and allowing fragile but more nutritious and tasty varietals to make their way back into the supply chain.
Energy is offset by lowered demand on the current agri-business system and can be further lowered as the renewables grid continues to grow.
Packaging that breaks the back of industrially manufactured food
Mass spectrometry + AI + OLED = The Etsy of food
Unloc is an enhanced storage container that has an integrated mass spectrometer, computer vision and an OLED screen built in. It is the tricorder as a piece of Tupperware, and it solves a lot of health issues.
Pressing a button will scan the items within the container and produce the familiar nutritional label, identify the food and meet all federal reporting requirements. This takes a lot of guess work out of what your are about to eat.
This also gives food, like the Blue Apron meal you just cooked, the same safety as manufactured food. More than that, it would allow your neighbor to get into a cottage food industry safely and legally. Aunt Edna’s Vegan Butter Cake can now be sold with the same assurances as processed food.
One can imagine an Etsy-of-food emerging as this technology eliminates the arcane rules requiring commercial kitchens and processed ingredients in order to sell packaged foods.
Waste as a service
The best review is the trash review
This Tinder-inspired trash can completes the data picture for Amazon and offers a new level of responsibility.
What the user sees is an easy way to reorder goods. What Amazon sees is a complete picture of what is being used, in order to better provision the Echo Fresh.
But Whole Foods sees something else: an opportunity for responsibility. The waste stream itself is owned by Amazon Whole Foods. It is WAAS, waste as a service. The Bin is serviced by the same logistics as the Echo Fresh. What goes in is sorted, used, or sold, resulting in a credit or charge to the user account based on the value. Pay one price for an apple, pay more to throw it away whole. Pay a price for a Diet Coke, get a credit for the aluminum.
Rather than our opaque waste stream of today, we now take responsibility for the full lifecycle of what we purchase and throw away. But we also gain convenience in the process.
With this new concept, we’re moving the production system closer to the consumer. We’re changing the way food is distributed and stored so it stays fresher, supports more varieties, and lowers the cost of food for families. We’re changing the way people buy and consume food by allowing them to purchase at the time of use, reducing food waste and lessening environmental impact.
Today’s system of grocery delivery evolved through incremental improvements in the technologies of agriculture and transportation. But today, with the emergence of autonomous vehicles, predictive analytics, robotics, and personalized shopping, the landscape is radically different, creating the opportunity to radically reshape how food is grown, distributed, and consumed.
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