How this online grocery service is changing the way we consume food

How this online grocery service is changing the way we consume food

Excess waste is one of the biggest problems facing the grocery industry today, with 31% of the food supply available at the retail and consumer level being written off as a loss. (source: US Department of Agriculture)

I recently spoke with Ben McCain, CEO and Founder hungryThe only grocery and recipe delivery service designed to make healthy eating easy, personal and sustainable. Ben and I discussed how AI is central to what Hungryroot does — from helping reduce food waste, to influencing the way consumers eat.

Gary Drenick: Thanks for meeting with me today, Ben. To get started, tell me about the mission behind Hungryroot and how it differs from other online grocery stores.

Ben McCain: Healthy eating is hard. Customers tell us all the time – besides the countless hours each week they spend planning, shopping and finally cooking meals for their family, the mental burden of the whole process is just too great. Add a desire to eat healthy food into the mix, and many are willing to give up, and instead turn to more expensive, less healthy alternatives like junk food or fast food. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to make healthy eating easy – instead of exhausting. We do what no other store or service does by blending recipe discovery, food planning and shopping to create a personalized stress relief experience that gets better with every visit.

Meal kits and other delivery services still have to address these pain points — they lack variety, don’t always offer healthy groceries that cater to specific dietary preferences, and recipes are often labor-intensive and time-consuming to prepare. Instant and on-demand delivery services only cater to a very specific ‘last minute’ use case. That’s why we see so many opportunities around our personal, customer-centric approach to build the dining experience that consumers crave most.

Drenick: Explain how your company’s technical developments are driving your industry forward.

McCain: At the height of Covid-19, we started to see migration to the internet accelerate, as grocers of all kinds turned their physical stores into digital shopping aisles. But as consumers get used to the ease of home grocery delivery, they now expect more from the online retailer of their choice. Consumers don’t just want a digital experience in the store – they want to spend less time planning meals, they want the grocery store to make their experience better with every visit, and they want their grocers to understand their needs. At Hungryroot, we believe creating personalized customer experiences, or a “custom grocery store,” is the future of grocery and what consumers will continue to look for.

When a Hungryroot customer signs up, they run a test on their food preferences: things like nutritional goals, family size, etc., and then our AI-powered platform fills their cart with grocery recommendations and recipes. Each week, we get to know the customer better—as they adjust their cart, for example, to add a recipe we didn’t think they liked, Hungryroot learns, and gets better with each visit. And while our AI allows us to improve the customer’s overall traditional grocery experience, we’re also impacting the environment and helping our customers reduce the impact of food waste as well.

Drenick: That’s a cool point, 43 billion pounds of food has been discarded in US grocery stores (Source: US Department of Agriculture). How can artificial intelligence help tackle the problem of food waste in America?

McCain: This is true and it is an alarming number to say the least. At the start of the company, we identified food waste — both in the store and at home — as the biggest problem in the food industry. And because impacting both people and our planet is important to us at Hungryroot, we’ve built sustainability into our core business model.

Because our AI knows our customers’ needs, preferences, and goals, we’re able to recommend healthy groceries framed in recipes that show them how to benefit from each ingredient they get. With recipe support that caters to families of all sizes, we’re limiting the opportunity for customers to be left with half bags of spinach going to waste rather than using them all. One of our customers even reported it “Only one small potato, one stalk of asparagus, and two pieces of Brussels sprouts were eliminated last year with Hungryroot.”

Plus, as I mentioned above, grocery stores are one of the root causes of food waste in America. At the heart of what Hungryroot does, AI allows us to dramatically reduce waste not only in consumers’ homes but in our warehouses as well. Because we know exactly what our customers want in their carts each week, we source only what we can actually sell – allowing us to have one of the lowest food waste in the industry, which is 2% as opposed to the industry standard 30% (source).

Drenick: How does Hungryroot affect individual eating habits?

McCain: Our proprietary technology creates personalized recommendations to help introduce customers to the foods we know they will love based on what we know about them. In our role as a trusted guide, we can encourage customers to make better food choices for the planet. For example, a recent survey conducted by Prosperity Insights & Analytics He explained that consumers are buying more meat-free foods (+8.6%), plant-based beverages (+7.8%), and plant-based meat products (+4.4%) to achieve more lifestyle flexibility. So, if a customer shares that they want to get more protein in their weekly deliveries, but also want to eat healthier food in general as a personal goal, our tech can recommend a mix of animal and plant proteins to the customer. As time goes on, and in observing customers’ purchasing and consumption patterns, we can slowly begin incorporating more and more plant proteins into their carts at the discretion of the customer. This allows a sense of product discovery to the customer but also helps encourage them to make healthy food choices that positively affect themselves and the planet.

Drenick: What does the future of grocery shopping look like?

McCain: newly Prosperity Insights & Analytics The survey found that consumers’ use of “home delivery” in the store where they often shop for groceries has doubled since 2019, largely in line with trends we’re seeing as well. We expect to see more and more consumers turning to e-commerce or other online solutions for their weekly grocery shopping due to the added ease and convenience. As more and more consumers are changing their online shopping habits, it is no longer enough to simply bring up basic ease and convenience. Consumers are expecting more – they want the convenience of home delivery, a curated experience, healthy food handpicked just for them, and guidance on how to benefit from food. At Hungryroot, we believe it is essential to provide consumers with a best-in-class experience that is personal and sustainable, which is why we have made it our goal to redefine how consumers plan, buy and consume food.

Drenick: Thank you Ben for introducing me hungry and provide valuable insights into how your service uses AI to benefit consumers and the environment.

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