“I can't get this food to Africa, so I don't wanna hear about it!” My girlfriend grunts as I scold her for leaving yet another never-to-be-eaten left-over box in my fridge. She knows I'm a hypocrite. I'm as guilty as everyone else when it comes to food wasting—about once a month I fill up an entire trash can with moldy or suspiciously smelling food. And I have started to feel guilty.
We may not be able to put my girlfriend's abandoned burritos into hungry mouths in Africa. However, with a collective societal consciousness and effort towards reducing food waste, we could re-allocate resources to allow for more universal availability of food and reduce environmental impact by minimizing the growing, transporting, and atmospheric polluting of uneaten food.
But I'll save my preaching for my poor girlfriend, and reserve this space for a discussion on how grocery brands are engaging with consumers in food waste awareness and reduction.
My recently heightened food-waste sensitivity was likely influenced by news of the May opening of the first “365 by Whole Foods” in Silver Lake Los Angeles. According to Fast Company, 365 will be more energy efficient, less food-wasteful, and less expensive than its parent brand, all while maintaining the same high quality food standards.
365 by Whole Foods Speaks to a Psychographic Segment
Most of the articles I've read claim 365 has a Millennial target audience, but I believe Whole Foods is proactively targeting a psychographic segment rather than simply a demographic group. Sure, Millennials have a unique worldview, but like any age group, Millennials have many different clusters of personalities. In Los Angeles, Millennials vary in flavor by neighborhood. Millennials in Studio City have a more middle-America vibe. Millennials in Manhattan Beach are a bit more fratty. Millennials in Silver Lake are more hipster.
I would bet Whole Foods has done an attitudinal segmentation of grocery shoppers (nearly everyone) and identified a target segment (let's call them “hipsters”). Then, by tying the segmentation to huge consumer databases, have been able to locate Hipster hotbeds throughout the country to open their test stores. Or maybe they just referred to one of many “10 most hipster cities” lists.
365 is Blurring Line Between Big Brand and Community
Reducing food waste is just one component of a comprehensive immersion into the community and mindset of Hipsters. According to Fast Company, 365 grocery stores will incorporate other local stores (i.e., bike shops, barber shops, coffee shops) inside of their brick-and-mortar structure. One tension 365 will likely have to manage with this group is a reluctance to join mainstream. For 365, embracing and partnering with local proprietors may lessen the abrasiveness of hipsters' anti-chain mentality.
An Experience Worthy of a Brick-and-Mortar Visit
A likely consideration in the development of 365's beyond-groceries experience is that home delivery of food is on the rise. When the basic function of grocery shopping can be handled more quickly and conveniently online, 365 appears to be making sure that leaving the house for groceries is worth the trip—the other businesses providing a reason to linger.
There's Opportunity for Brands to Help Consumers Waste Less Food
While 365 and many other food retailers are doing things to reduce food waste at retail (i.e. anaerobic digester machines to convert wasted food to energy), few grocers seem to be engaging with consumers about food waste, particularly in the U.S. Retailers that help customers minimize food waste in home could be the truly differentiated culture changers.
I'll ponder these issues further, on my first trip to get groceries, a hair cut, and to fix my bike at 365 by Whole Foods in Hipster Town, USA.