Hershey Medley concept store. Source: Hershey Company

Amazon’s done it again.  In their quest to revolutionize grocery procurement, Amazon is once more redefining the grocery experience with Amazon Go.

Introduced late last year, Amazon Go is a new kind of grocery store that eliminates the check-out line.  Their “just walk out technology” lets shoppers simply put the goods in their bag and just walk out of the store.  No check out needed.

It may feel a lot like shop lifting, but according to the folks at Amazon, it’s the future of grocery stores.

All shoppers have to do is check-in by scanning their app as they enter the store and then special sensors track when items are removed from the shelves.   Shoppers are then charged via their Amazon accounts when they leave the store.  Easy, right?

But Amazon Go isn’t just making it easy for the shoppers, it’s also lowering operational costs.  No check-out means a lot fewer workers needed to run the store and much lower payroll.

So far Amazon has experimented with just walk out technology in the convenience store type setting of Amazon Go, but word is that Amazon is thinking much bigger and may begin opening two-story grocery stores operated in much the same way.  These automated mega-stores may be able to run with as few as three workers at any given time.

Amazon isn’t alone in developing experimental groceries. Hershey is experimenting in the retail space with Medley, a concept grocery store within Hershey headquarters.  Medley is pretty much the exact opposite of what Amazon Go is all about.  The concept behind Medley is a high touch, experiential grocery staffed by experts in specific fields (butchers, bakers…) and designed to make grocery shopping more of an escape than a chore. While not an actual store, the purpose of Medley is for Hershey to demonstrate to retail partners how to implement these concepts into stores.

“Our goal is to get our partners to think about what the experiential store of the future will look like,” said Brian Kavanagh, Senior Director, Retail Evolution for Hershey. “We’re not just working with retailers on developing the confection category. We want to help them leverage this technology for better stores.”

Hershey is developing another grocery concept, Oasis of Freshness, which would be a pop up store in urban “food desserts”—areas lacking grocery stores with fresh products.  This concept would convert a mobile shipping container into a pseudo farm stand with local produce, meats, and dairy.

Experimental stores are taking on many different shapes, but all point to changing needs and how people want to shop for groceries. Companies like Amazon are extending their reach from the online world to tap into new markets with new concepts for physical grocery retail experiences, while others like Hershey’s are looking to leverage new technologies to envision what a more experiential food retail experience might look like.

No matter the motivation, this is only the beginning as experimental groceries look to fill gaps that traditional stores have left open and look to meet the evolving needs of a fast-changing consumer marketplace.

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