Target is trying new ways to compete with grocery rivals — including providing customers with radical transparency.
A new concept, currently being tested in Edina, Minnesota, allows customers to pay for certain produce, including strawberries and raspberries, based on how fresh they are, reports the Star Tribune.
Items’ arrival times are indicated on a sign over the produce, with a 50-cent price difference between fresher and older produce.
Customers can also weigh produce on futuristic ‘smart scales,’ which provide customers with information such as how many calories the fruit or vegetable has, if it is organic, and how it was produced.
The smart scales allow Target to see what information is most important to customers, at a time when Americans are increasingly interested in health nutrition.
The test is a project from Food + Future coLab, a partnership with MIT’s Media Lab and design firm Ideo, dedicated to “pushing the edges of technology, business, and design.” Target recently launched another project from coLab in Boston called Good & Gather, which emphasises ingredients by placing ingredients on the front of the label instead of the back.
Target is in the midst of a major overhaul of its grocery section. In March, the company announced it was cutting back on its middle-aisle dry packaged goods, and adding more fresh produce and organic and gluten-free products.
The retail chain began its revamp last year, with Target CEO Brian Cornell visiting rivals such as Wegmans and Trader Joe’s for inspiration, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company decided to stand out from the competition by refocusing on seven major categories: meat, beer and wine, fruits and vegetables, coffee and tea, yogurt and granola, snacks, and candy.
The changes are already helping boost sales, with Target reporting that food sales in the last six months of 2015 outpaced overall sales. However, issues with the supply chain have caused some issues as the company works to add more fresh offerings.
“I said to my team this looks like Frankenstein. We have made this thing out of a bunch of parts,” Target COO John Mulligan said last year in an interview with Reuters.
Target’s food-centric rehaul comes at a time when the grocery business is growing increasingly crowded. Retail chains such as Walmart and traditional supermarkets like Kroger are modernising by investing in the online and organic grocery business.
At the same time, discount chains such as Aldi and Trader Joe’s are growing and expanding their organic offerings, forcing other chains to consider cutting prices. Whole Foods, for example, is launching a lower-cost chain called 365 to attract millennial customers.