Opinion

Does the arrival of Amazon Fresh mark a new dawn in an era of choice?

15 July 2016

Briony Dunmore
Briony Dunmore

With the British berry season in full swing, it seems only natural that quality-focused BerryWorld celebrates the arrival of its fruitful treasures in style, with a feast of raspberry delights. So I was delighted to be invited along with some 10 food bloggers and journalists to the Bourne & Hollingsworth Kitchen in central London for a seasonal masterclass hosted by Michelin-star Adam Gray, GB Chefs and BerryWorld

Quality-based marketing

Dressed in GB Chef’s aprons and holding our Earl Grey Collins cocktails high in the air, we toasted BerryWorld Jewel raspberries, a premium berry, plumper and juicer than standard raspberries with a naturally sweeter flavour. Having been raised in the Staffordshire countryside where nothing tastes quite as good as fruit pie on a Sunday filled with self-foraged seasonal berries, the idea of quality-based marketing for delicately hand-picked premium raspberries is a refreshing one, that truly takes us back to farmer’s-market basics.

We’re hearing a lot about food waste at the moment and seeing a rising demand to revise demanding quality standards, making room for the neglected ‘ugly’ and ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables of this world. Though I agree that it’s great for consumers to be able to purchase imperfect fruit at a reduced price, there must also be room for high-quality fresh produce at a higher price point, reflecting a costlier procurement process that results in a premium product. On a fruit-retail scale from ugly to standard, where is the beautiful?

With rising consumer interest into the provenance of fresh produce and more vegetable-centric food trends in foodservice, I think we will see more premium fruit and vegetable brands on the shelves, appealing to the discerning, quality- and health-conscious consumer. As I tucked into my raspberry and champagne jelly prepared by Adam Gray, it was clear to me that if fresh produce was as evolved in branding as the fashion world, BerryWorld Jewel raspberries would surely be the Chanel handbag.

Fresh game-changer

Amazon Fresh, which will be stocking BerryJewel raspberries, made its highly anticipated entrance into the UK market in May by promising a one-hour delivery slot to certain postcodes in London using the Amazon Prime function – perfect for the unpredictable British BBQ weather! Expected to be a game-changer in British retail Amazon Fresh is being tipped to challenge the already pressured Big Four supermarkets in better serving convenience-hungry UK consumers.

The trusted Amazon brand is able to sell a vast selection at a competitive price with quick delivery options and still offer its world-famous customer service. I personally hope this is the dawn of an era of choice in British grocery; I’d like to see some buyer power taken from the big supermarkets and distributed back to the consumers – I believe Amazon Fresh to be the Robin Hood in this fresh produce tale.

As consumers in the digital age, we now know more about what we’re eating than ever before. From organic to pre-packed and from spiraled to on-the-vine, we each have our own shopping habits, taste preferences and produce pre-requisites when choosing which supermarket will best fulfill our needs. Whether you shop in Wholefoods or Tesco, it’s safe to say that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all supermarket, and that’s before we even consider individual budget or geographical location.

Although online is currently only 6% of the grocery market, according to latest figures from IGD, the grocery sector research and training charity, 29% of shoppers said they shopped online for groceries in the last month, and 42% said they could be converted to online food shopping. The edge Amazon Fresh has is its same-day delivery offering, achievable through the e-commerce giant’s existing Amazon logistics network. Although there are popular online grocers in the UK already, Amazon’s trusted brand and reputation could mean a captive audience for the new Fresh extension.

I hope Amazon Fresh is able to serve consumers better by leveraging supplier relationships and logistics to offer vast choice and differentiated fresh produce brands. It certainly has the scope to meet everyone’s needs.

As shoppers we’re definitely getting savvier, our hunt for the best quality, the most ethical, the healthiest, the most readily available and the least expensive, has already made space for Wholefoods, Planet Organic and foodie markets on the London scene. But with the complex supply-chain solutions Amazon has created via its e-commerce business, I’d like to see Amazon Fresh go one further and offer consumers a wide range of produce, at varying price points, marketed on individual grower USPs, whether that’s price, added-value such as hand-picked, taste, ethics, organic or provenance.

It would be wonderful to see a retailer distinguishing between produce taste and quality offer cheaper options next to the more expensive, catering to everyone’s needs and budgets, this opens the door for the likes of BerryWorld to serve their berry-loving consumers better and grow their market share.

If it means smaller baskets combined with faster delivery, Amazon Fresh could well grow the overall online grocery market.

Briony Dunmore is business development manager at Phoenix Media Network Ltd, which runs The London Produce Show and Conference and Produce Business UK.

Produce Business UK welcomes letters to the editor and other input from the industry. If you wish to respond to an article on Produce Business UK or join the conversation on any industry issue, please send your thoughts to [email protected]

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