The Local Checkout: Independent grocery drive-thrus are not only picking up speed but funding, too

Drive-thru grocer JackBe raises $11.5 million to fuel growth; Dutch grocer calling all Chatty Cathys; and new TV add calls out power buyers in grocery.
Illustration: WGB staff / Shutterstock

The Local Checkout

Welcome to The Local Checkout, a new Winsight Grocery Business column about independent grocers from Editor Diane Adam. Grocery stores are like people—they come in all different shapes and sizes. And here at The Local Checkout, I’ll be taking a closer look through a wide lens of independent grocery stores. Because just like people—they all matter.   

The car before the cart 

Grocery shopping without leaving your car is picking up speed. And shoppers are quickly embracing this growing e-commerce grocery drive-thru concept. Just ask any mom of a toddler. 

Oklahoma-based JackBe, which opened earlier this year in suburban Oklahoma City, announced on Wednesday the single-unit independent grocer raised $11.5 million to fuel expansion.  

Independent grocers such as JackBe, and others including Addie’s and OPIE, are driving new growth in the grocery space by putting the car before the cart. 

OPIE is in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. And yes, the name comes from the Andy Griffith Show. If you don’t remember, Opie was the young boy played by a (then-young) Ron Howard. 

Addie’s arrived on the scene earlier this year and is in Norwood, Massachusetts. Addie’s was founded by CEO Jim McQuade and CTO Jeremiah Strauss with $10.1 million in seed funding led by the Disruptive Innovation Fund, the venture capital arm of Clay Christensen's Rose Park Advisors. 

So, what’s down the road for drive-thru grocers? There will always be skeptics pressing the brakes, but e-commerce firm Mercatus  predicts that online grocery shopping will double to more than $200 billion by 2026, with curbside pickup among the fastest-growing segments. Time to buckle up. 

Life in the slow lane 

It seems the fastest lane is not where everyone wants to be when it comes to grocery shopping. Dutch supermarket Jumbo, which is a Brabant family business, offers shoppers Kletskassa, which translates to “chat checkout.”  Through a dedicated cash register lane, shoppers seeking a pleasant chat during checkout can drum up small talk while paying for their groceries. The “slow lane” program is part of the Dutch government’s One Against Loneliness campaign, which aims to show a small gesture can make all the difference—even at the grocery store.  

Personalized shopping tour

And if speed or being a Chatty Cathy is not what you are seeking but health is, better-for-you grocer Natural Grocers now offers a Personalized Shopping Experience at select stores. The 30-minute walkthrough of the store with a nutritional health coach (NHC) aims to help shoppers improve their dietary choices. Designed with the individual in mind, the walkthrough also gives advice for man’s best friend (and cats, too!) on better food and supplement options. 

Indies in the news 

The National Grocers Association (NGA), the national trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, aired a new TV commercial on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends on Wednesday calling out power buyers in the grocery space. NGA, which represents more than 1,800 independent grocery retailers, said the commercial puts a spotlight on the harm these power buyers have created for independent and smaller grocers not only to compete, but to survive. The ad, paid for by the NGA, is geared to drum up support of the antitrust laws, the NGA said. 

Breakfast included 

This week’s shout-out that deserves the hashtag #KindessCostsNothing goes to Mississippi’s Freshley’s Market in Aberdeen. The grocer offered free breakfast on Sunday to all first responders assisting with tornado relief efforts following last Friday’s tornado and strong storms that left destruction in the southeastern part of the state. 



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