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Instacart is centering grocery ecommerce as a vehicle to spread healthy food with a series of new initiatives that it rolled out on Wednesday.
Called, Instacart Health, the new program is aiming to deepen the grocery tech company’s work to expand food access and nutrition through partnerships, product updates, research and policy advocacy.
The company points to key data that shows a need to do more:
- More than one in 10 Americans doesn’t have reliable access to nutritious food.
- More than 100 million people in the United States suffer from diet-related diseases.
- 90% of U.S. healthcare costs come from treating chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, that can be rooted in diets that lack key nutrients.
“As the leading online grocery technology company in North America, we’ve not only become a staple in millions of households, we’re already naturally playing a major role in people’s health,” CEO Fidji Simo wrote in a blog post announcing the new initiative. “We’ve seen firsthand via independent and partner research studies that online grocery delivery helps people get access to fresh food, adopt healthier eating habits, save time, manage their budgets, and eliminate transportation and mobility barriers to nutrition. As a company at the center of people’s relationship with what they eat, we have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to do more.”
Instacart’s announcement comes during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The last time the event was held, Richard Nixon was president in 1969.
Instacart is debuting a series of new in-app features.
These include new versions of shoppable Carts that the company rolled out last month. Carts feature curated selections of items around a specific theme, or from a particular person.
One of the Carts tied to the Health launch will be from Ciara, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter. Through a new partnership, Instacart will feature healthy groceries from Ciara that are shoppable within the Cart feature.
“My family and I live by the saying ‘health is wealth’ and we know much of that starts with what we eat,” said Ciara. “I have a very busy life between running after my 3 kids, spending time with my husband and running my businesses. In the midst of all of that, I have learned that eating nutrient-rich foods actually makes me feel better and keeps me going. I'm excited to team up with Instacart for Instacart Health because I believe in their commitment to help make nutritious food accessible for everyone, and to help people make more informed decisions about what they're buying to fulfill their personal health needs."
Other Carts will be curated by professional health experts. They’re designed to help people discover new products and meal ideas that are “better for you.”
Instacart is also planning to apply health to rotating content banners on the app’s home feed, called Pop-Ups. These feature digital aisles that are designed to inspire shopping, and are created by in-house experts, brands and retailers. Forthcoming pop-ups will feature vegan favorites and food for a low-sodium lifestyle.
Additional content be available to help plan healthy meals. Instacart will introduce a new collection of healthy recipe apps from Women’s Health, Men’s Health and Prevention. A partnership with weight care clinic Found will bring Found will make nutrition guidance and recipes shoppable via Instacart. Further, dietitians and nutritionists will now be able to use shoppable lists to offer personalized plans.
On products descriptions, Instacart will also start appending health tags, which label items with designations such as low-sodium, gluten-free, or Keto.
Instacart will also work on food access and nutrition through a variety of new initiatives that broaden Instacart's availability to low-income people, and enable programs to provide the service for others.
Expanding online SNAP: Instacart will work with the US Department of Agriculture to make SNAP EBT, formerly known as food stamps, accessible for online grocery orders at all of the retailers on its platform by 2030. In recent years, it has onboarded 70 retailers. Using new in-store technology, shoppers can also now scan an item to see if it is SNAP-eligible.
TANF Benefits: Instacart will also allow customers to pay with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, a government cash assistance program that helps low-income families purchase everyday essentials. This will allow shoppers to pay for household items like diapers and toilet paper, as well as cover delivery fees using the benefits.
Fresh Funds: A new program allows organizations including nonprofits, employers, insurance companies and health systems to give people money to pay for goods on Instacart. They will be able to do this through a digital stipend that can be designated for certain food categories. A pilot program in Indianapolis with the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America will launch in 2023.
Care Carts: This new product allows healthcare providers and caregivers to order groceries on behalf of someone else. Current users include digital nutrition coaching platform Good Measures, hospital-at-home solution provider Medically Home, food solutions and care management platform NourishedRx, digital nutrition services Season Health and Foodsmart.
Reaching beyond its own service, Instacart is introducing a policy agenda that calls for the following:
- Modernize food assistance programs to increase equitable access to nutritious food.
- Increase the availability of affordable, nutritious food in underserved urban and rural areas.
- Provide equitable access to health-tailored groceries and food prescription programs.
“Throughout my 20-year career focused on finding sustainable solutions to our nation’s food and health crises, I've worked with many companies,” said Ryan Shadrick Wilson, Founder and CEO of Boardwalk Collective and Instacart Health Advisor. “Rarely have I seen a company offer such robust solutions at scale, spanning product, policy, partnerships and social impact. Instacart recognizes that it can play a pivotal role in helping more people improve their health and wellbeing through food."
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Campbell Soup Company CEO Mark Clouse offered thoughts on messaging amid inflationary shifts in consumer behavior.
After months of elevated inflation and interest rate hikes that have the potential to cool demand, consumers are showing more signs of shifting behavior.
It’s showing up in retail sales data, but there’s also evidence in the observations of the brands responsible for grocery store staples.
The latest example came this week from Campbell Soup Company. CEO Mark Clouse told analysts that the consumer continues to be “resilient” despite continued price increases on food, but found that “consumers are beginning to feel that pressure” as time goes on.
This shows up in the categories they are buying. Overall, Clouse said Campbell sees a shift toward shelf-stable items, and away from more expensive prepared foods.
There is also change in when they make purchases. People are buying more at the beginning of the month. That’s because they are stretching paychecks as long as possible.
These shifts change how the company is communicating with consumers.
Clouse said the changes in behavior are an opportunity to “focus on value within our messaging without necessarily having to chase pricing all the way down.”
“No question that it's important that we protect affordability and that we make that relevant in the categories that we're in," Clouse said. "But I also think there's a lot of ways to frame value in different ways, right?”
A meal cooked with condensed soup may be cheaper than picking up a frozen item or ordering out. Consumers just need a reminder. Even within Campbell’s own portfolio, the company can elevate brands that have more value now, even if they may not always get the limelight.
The open question is whether the shift in behavior will begin to show up in the results of the companies that have raised prices. Campbell’s overall net sales grew 5% for the quarter ended April 30, while gross profit margins held steady around 30%. But the category-level results were more uneven. U.S. soup sales declined 11%, though the company said that was owed to comparisons with the quarter when supply chains reopened a year ago and expressed confidence that the category is seeing a longer-term resurgence as more people cook at home following the pandemic. Snacks, which includes Goldfish and Pepperidge Farm, were up 12% And while net sales increased overall, the amount of products people are buying is declining. Volumes were down 7%.
These are trends happening across the grocery store. Campbell is continuing to compete. It is leading with iconic brands, and a host of different ways to consume them. It is following that up with innovation that makes the products stand out. Then, it is driving home messaging that shows consumers how to fit the products into their lives, and even their tightening spending plans.
Campbell Soup is more than 150 years old, and has seen plenty of difficult economic environments. It is also a different business today, and will continue to evolve. At the end of the day, continued execution is what’s required.
“If it's good food, people are going to buy it, especially if it's a great value,” Clouse said.