Just before the new year, Munsee Meats, which touts itself as Indiana’s premiere meat provider, made one of the latest advances in digital fulfillment — a reflection of a trend that promises to grow even more intense in 2021 as more grocery consumers shop online.
Munsee Meats began offering local customers a new method, dubbed the “Automated Farmers Market,” of picking up their orders placed through the company’s website.
The retailer partners with local farmers to deliver premium meats and locally sourced goods to customers in east central Indiana, covering Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and the areas between. While traditionally only servicing local restaurants and institutions, Munsee Meats expanded its vision to offer its unique selection of meats and goods to retail customers. By leveraging the QuickCollect GL system from Durham, North Carolina-based Bell and Howell, Munsee Meats took the first step to change how local customers interact with local farmers, artisans and even restaurants by automating farm-to-table food delivery.
Once online customers place an order on MunseeMeats.com, their order will be filled and stocked in the Automated Farmers Market. Customers will then receive a confirmation QR code that their order is ready for pickup. When a customer arrives at the lockers, they scan the QR code and retrieve their order from the self-serve lockers.
“We are always looking for unique ways to grow, especially our e-commerce efforts,” says Jason Mauck, CEO of Muncie, Ind.-based Munsee Meats. “The QuickCollect GL is a unique locker solution that helps us offer the safest and quickest method for families to get the highest-quality meats, meals and local goods. It also enables us to scale our reach very quickly and cost-effectively. We are revolutionizing the way people interact with their local farmers and business.”
Online Growth Spurt
One of the biggest stories of 2020 was how the pandemic produced a growth spurt in food retail e-commerce — Boston-based L.E.K. Consulting estimates that some 35% of U.S. households now buy groceries via online or mobile channels. One of the biggest stories of 2021 will be how food retailers will refashion supply-chain and fulfillment services to handle all of that e-commerce demand — and, as is the case with Munsee Meats, serve new customers and otherwise expand business.
The QuickCollect GL, part of the QuickCollect Solutions portfolio of automated pickup solutions offered by Bell and Howell, is a modular, temperature-controlled locker engineered for indoor and outdoor installations. Each column in the modular design can be remotely adjusted to be any temperature, from frozen to heated, to meet any specific storage temperature requirements. The lockers will first be available in select locations in the Muncie area, with rapid expansion plans in the works.
“We are proud to partner with an innovator like Munsee Meats,” says Joe Zuech, VP of online grocery solutions for Bell and Howell. “With our temperature-controlled grocery lockers, Munsee Meats can now deliver an easy, convenient order pickup option that their customers will love.”
Expect to see more such innovation. The numbers point the way.
According to L.E.K, for instance, without the pandemic and the improvisation that it forced upon the food retail world, it would have taken three to five years to reach the level of e-commerce achieved in 2020.
The consulting firm has found that the trend is being fueled by various demographics. These include older consumers trying online grocery shopping — L.E.K. says that of first-time grocery online shoppers in March 2020, 39% were age 60 and up. In four years, the percentage of consumers who have ever purchased groceries online could reach about 66%, according to a forecast by Barrington, Ill.-based consultancy Brick Meets Click. While not all grocers were ready for such a rapid shift, they’ll need a strong e-commerce strategy going forward, the L.E.K. report notes.
Food retailers, in turn, are having to react quickly to that rapid shift — with more changes to come in 2021 and beyond.
“As consumers increasingly demand same-day delivery, grocers are expected to expand back rooms in order to create more space in stores for online order fulfillment,” the L.E.K. report says. “Grocers are also likely to perform SKU rationalization in order to create a more targeted in-store assortment, maximizing the decreased selling store space as a result of expanded back rooms, and broadening online assortment.”