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Grocery Store on Wheels to Disrupt Food Retail in Canada with Spring 2021 Launch

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A Toronto-based company is planning to launch a  ‘grocery store on wheels’ which could be a game changer for some neighbourhoods and places lacking quick access to larger-format supermarkets. It is considered to be so innovative that Ebeltoft Group recently named it as the global innovator of the year.

Frank Sinopoli, CEO of Grocery Neighbour, said a mobile grocery store concept was conceptualized at the end of March 2020 as an opportunity within the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re in the middle of launching. What we’ve done at this point is test it out. We’ve done beta. People run through and experience it. Nobody has ever done this before — not at this scale,” said Sinopoli.

“People have put groceries in the back of a truck but we’ve actually put wheels on a store is the way I look at it. We have multiple temperatures, we have positive air flow. It’s high technology. So it’s actually a store on wheels not groceries inside of a truck. It’s a mobile grocery store that runs into neighbourhoods that have voted it in.

“The idea is we want to focus on the underserved neighbourhoods that have to drive 15 plus minutes to get to a grocery store. It is completely autonomous. So you scan items on your phone, you check out on your own. Nobody is touching any of the products. There’s a digital lineup system. The whole experience itself is quite unique, it’s quite streamlined but more importantly it’s just ridiculously convenient for people.”

The trucks are 53 feet in length. The concept is neighbourhood centric with a focus primarily on meats, produce, dairy, and bread with a selection of CPG (consumer packaged goods). The trucks can carry up to about 2,000 SKUs (stock keeping unit).

“There are some items that are standard but because neighbourhoods tend to create patterns within themselves. We become part of the neighbourhood and we gradually learn and understand what the buying habits are and demands are and we adapt,” said Sinopoli.

The idea is aiming to officially launch in the next 30 to 90 days.

“We’ve had over 1,000 serious franchise requests from around the world,” he said. “I’m in the middle of signing deals in the Dominican Republic. I just signed a few on the West Coast of the U.S. I’ve signed more here than anywhere. We’re rolling out with two to three (trucks). Until it gets rolling and we figure out everything at scale, I don’t want to try and launch a hundred stores in the first year.

Rendering of the Grocery Neighbour truck concept. Rendering: Grocery Neighbour
Rendering of the Grocery Neighbour truck concept. Rendering: Grocery Neighbour

“By year five, we’ll have a thousand stores out there. I know it sounds crazy but the demand is there and there’s enough franchise demand, investor demand.”

Sinopoli said the key is finding neighbourhoods located more than 15 minutes from a major grocery store. The use of the mobile grocery store will depend on each neighbourhood and what rights have been granted. In some of the neighbourhoods the store will “inch” its way through with designated stops. Other neighbourhoods might find the mobile grocery store stationed at a specific location.

Because of the technology, the mobile store knows when people are accessing it and leaving it. In that way, said Sinopoli, the lineup system can be managed digitally.

“I see a bigger play here. I see an opportunity to supercede a lot of the online grocery world because in the neighbourhoods where we exist nobody will be able to physically get there faster than us and then not only will we be able to get there faster but we’ll solve the price issue. We won’t have a minimum spend because we’re already there. Timing. We’ll give you groceries faster than you can physically get them yourself in under 20 minutes because we’re already there,” he said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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