Speculation has been growing about Amazon’s recent grocery efforts. On the one hand, Amazon has built out its first few Amazon Go automated food stores in urban centers and is likely to roll the concept out much more broadly. On the other hand, Amazon has been leveraging its Whole Foods Markets real estate as mini Prime Now food distribution centers, and could build out more Whole Foods stores to be able to broaden its geographic reach and shorten delivery times in more cities and suburban areas.
But what will Amazon’s product strategy be?
An important part of what Amazon is currently thinking appears to be ready-made meals. According to a recent Amazon job posting (which has been taken down), Amazon is planning to build a “new perishable food platform” to deliver “world class meal solutions for time-starved customers.” The listing reads:
Are you interested in changing how customers solve the “what’s for dinner?” dilemma? If yes, Amazon is looking for somebody with your enthusiasm and skills to build and lead the team that delivers world class meal solutions for time-starved customers. We are looking for an entrepreneurial, analytical, operationally-minded category leader to deliver a new perishable food platform. This role will require the ability to set a vision and drive the end-to-end strategy that will fuel the growth and long term profitability of this critical assortment. The right person for this role will have deep experience developing and commercializing a portfolio of perishable packaged foods, communicating effectively to stakeholders and closely with the cross-functional teams as well as owning the P&L.
Ready-made meals is an interesting strategy because it leverages two major competitive advantages Amazon has been investing in heavily: 1) its Prime Now network of last mile delivery solutions, and 2) its growing network of Amazon Go and Whole Foods food distribution centers, er, grocery stores. Ready meals are a logical application to run on top of this infrastructure.
By focusing on ready meals, Amazon is apparently choosing a different strategy than the “mail-order ingredients you prepare yourself” meal kit companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, and many more. Instead, Amazon is focusing on the “time-starved” segment of the population. We think that makes sense. (Note, however, that Amazon does offer its own selection of non-perishable meal kits, but they appear to be sparsely reviewed. There is also a single perishable meal from Tyson available via AmazonFresh in our spot check.) Amazon does also offer perishable foods at Whole Foods and Amazon Go currently.
By ramping up its ready meal efforts, Amazon will also be competing more broadly with restaurants that offer takeout or delivery, and the logistics networks like Uber Eats that are virtualizing them. (Amazon is also building its own food delivery service, Amazon Restaurants, that is available in about 20 cities.) Just as Amazon has built out its own portfolio of private label brands across multiple retail categories, including non-perishable food, we could see Amazon creating its own “restaurant-like” private label brands for different types of ready meals (pizza, Thai, etc).
Given the investments Amazon has made in grocery and logistics thus far, we expect perishable meals and related new food products to be an area that Amazon is prepared to invest in and grind it out over a period of time.