Small neighbourhood grocers or the old ‘corner stores’ are popping up in urban areas around the USA, and not just for young young ‘foodies’ can flock to to find local produce, artisan condiments and unique offerings. The 'micro-grocery' stores actively cater to areas were food access is limited, and often make a considerably large impact in the community that they serve.
Mobility, disability and transportation are common barriers to access food stores and they can be easily accessed by members of the senior community, and are focussed on the ability to cater to the needs of the people that they served.
But it is not just the elderly community that these stores can help. Retailers can get access to dense urban neighbourhoods and corporate offices and take advantage of the heavy foot traffic without the real-estate and big budgets that a standard store would require.
Armed with healthy food options like cricket chips, paleo bars and meatless meat, micro grocery is said to be the future of retail.
Those located within an office building where employees can purchase healthy foods instead of a trip to the vending machine rely on an honour system where it is self-checkout with no attendant on site. These sites are predicted to be the fastest growing segment of the food service industry in the US according to research firm Bachtelle and Associates.
Micro-grocery stores are a more permanent farmers market, and are slowly becoming known for their relaxed and personalised service with a small range of carefully curated products that really acts as an ‘extension of their customers’ own kitchens’. Similar to the likes of Huckleberry or Four Square in New Zealand, the smaller format stores are often catering to customers who place priority on provenance, authenticity and transparency, in particular customers who want ‘free-from’ and ‘better-for-you’ products.
A market-type store is definitely not a new concept, considering it is how grocery started, but it has seen a resurgence in the past year. Small quantities of produce and centre-store products help cut down on waste. One micro-grocer even offers old-school house accounts where family members settle the tab at the end of the week to encourage multiple visits. Many feature suggestion boxes where customers can request products they want to try, and they appear in store just a week later.
But are these store formats really the future of retail grocery?
Launching late last year, Morsl, a line of micro-markets are located in several corporate offices across Australia following successful implementation in businesses like Amazon, Nestlé and Unilever. It is a fully automated self-serve, food and drink marketplace focused on healthy options to improve employee wellness through better-for-you eating choices and maximise productivity with on-site convenience.
Morsl was created by Kyra Borland, a former banker in Singapore who was frustrated by the lack of healthy food options around her office. Borland conducted extensive research to find a better solution to the vending machine which led her to a micro-market concept. There is a selection of over 300 nutritious meals, snacks and drinks and is available 24/7. Once items are selected, employees proceed to the self-checkout kiosk and can simply scan and pay.
Similarly, store-within-a-store concepts are also opening within supermarkets, for customers to easily access lunch or dinner items without having to go around aisle by aisle. Going small also means smaller investment financially, for example, Green Zebra Grocery in the USA, a fully fitted out store will cost about $1.5million to build but a micro Zebra will only require some shelving and a refrigeration unit costing little more than $7,000.