What Ever Happened to Groceries?

You don’t have to go far these days to find an industry in the midst of rapid innovation. For example, just take a look at the grocery industry. As with all brick-and-mortar retailers, the advent of the internet has radically changed the way people shop. Fading are the days of weekly grocery trips. Instead, grocery delivery services like Amazon Fresh and Instacart, along with meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Purple Carrot -- not to mention farm delivery services like Boston Organics -- prove that alternatives to the standard way of shopping are both viable and, for many, preferable.

But, all that being said, grocery startups aren't all about delivery. How is the grocery industry changing? What will it look like? To attempt to answer this, we've decided to highlight some of the interesting start-ups changing the way we think about groceries.

Fresh Truck


Credit: Gina-Maria Garcia for The Huntington News

Fresh Truck started in 2012 as an initiative to fight food insecurity and improve community health by offering fresh produce at low prices in neighborhoods whose access to healthy food may be lacking. Since they buy from a wholesaler, prices are more then reasonable. And, as the name implies, it’s a truck -- or, more accurately, a large converted schoolbus with plenty of space.

This kind of model isn’t exclusive to Boston -- see Peaches and Greens in Detroit or the Veggie Mobile in New York -- but it’s been shown to be an excellent way to deliver quality produce to communities that need it while at the same time providing them with a “moving community center” that engages and educates people about the benefits of healthy eating.

Daily Table

We’ve already covered The Daily Table in our food waste blog post, but it’s worth mentioning it again. This Dorchester-based supermarket sources their inventory at a deep discount from various partners looking to offload products. Consequently, prices are low and local residents have access to good food at a price point comparable to that of a fast food restaurant. In short, it's a win-win.


Personalized meals are nothing new, but Lighter is no meal kit. The company was started as a way to streamline meal planning and promote healthy vegan cooking. Their website provides weekly meal plans with included shopping lists and Instacart integration as well as light social networking features. Though the basics are available for free, other perks like personal consultations come as part of a monthly subscription.

In any case, the recipes are interesting and diverse, the products of a roster of chefs that includes Miyoko Schinner of Miyoko’s Kitchen, along with non-chefs like former Chicago Bears defensive end David Carter and Cowspiracy co-director Kip Andersen. For busy individuals looking to take the work out of finding recipes and compiling shopping lists, Lighter is a great solution.

Imperfect Produce


Though it doesn’t operate in Boston, this San Francisco based startup is changing consumer perceptions everywhere. Ugly produce has taken off in recent years, with retailers like Walmart seizing an opportunity to offer environmentally-aware shoppers misshapen apples at a steep discount. Why? Because we throw away an insane amount of edible produce because it doesn’t meet our visual standards. Imperfect Produce sources their ugly fruits and veggies from local farms, and a large box of 17-19lbs of produce is only $20-22. 


MyWebGrocer was founded in 1999, but the company has grown quickly in the past few years. This is easy enough to see from their two rounds of funding -- in 2009 and 2013 -- which raised upwards of $60m. The company provides regional and national grocery stores with a full-featured eCommerce and marketing platform, a vital service for the many groceries expanding their operations to accommodate shoppers' changing tastes.

Pippin Foods


The recent growth of locavore philosophy is best exemplified by Pippin. The service aims to streamline and simplify the process of getting farmers’ produce to grocery stores and restaurants. Grocers can order through the Pippin platform, which then coordinates with the farmers.

Unlike the prevailing distribution model of buying a warehouse to store products, Pippin functions by facilitating purchases directly from farmers. The goal: bring the selection and excitement of a farmers market to shoppers with the ease of working with a single vendor. Their in-store display includes a tablet with an app that displays information about the individual farms, boosting customer engagement and nurturing the sense of community that was lost with industrial agriculture.

More than ever, people are shopping with environmental and social concerns in mind. It's not just activistic concerns that are changing the face of groceries though. There are busy people everywhere who are increasingly turning to businesses that aim to simplify cooking every step of the way. In any case, what's absolutely apparent is that the future of groceries is exciting, and these startups prove that there are many ways to get there.