April 08, 2021 at 09:19PM

Demand for online grocery solutions remains high, as consumers who have grown accustomed to the safety and convenience of delivery continue to seek out eCommerce options. Industry experts predict that the demand for online grocery will persist even once the contagion concerns of the pandemic subside, now that consumers have come to expect the ease of the channel. Consequently, venture capitalists are investing hundreds of millions in the future of online grocery.

Now, e-grocery platform Mercato, which boasts premium products and local vendors, has raised $26 million in Series A funding to grow its team and improve its data analytics platform, as TechCrunch reported. The fundraise comes on the heels of a remarkably strong 2020, in which the company’s merchants grew sales by 1,300 percent. The platform serves as a third-party online marketplace to help small food vendors build out their eCommerce presence.

“Basically, the vision is to give them the tech, the systems and the platform they need to be successful in this day and age,” Bobby Brannigan, the company’s CEO and co-founder, told the publication.

Using Mercato’s name recognition and its data analytics to attract consumers, merchants then fulfill the orders in-house, rather than using external pickers provided by a company like Instacart. As Brannigan explained, “They’re maintaining that relationship. Usually, it’s a lot better if it’s somebody from the store … because they might know the customer … so they’re like a really efficient recommendation engine.”

Whole Foods Releases New Private-Label Beer

Private-label offerings can be key to establishing a more direct relationship with customers, launching products that appeal directly to their tastes while boosting margins and growing sales. Whole Foods Market is now releasing a line of craft beers from its Whole Foods Market Brewing Company throughout its locations in Texas. The Double IPA is already available, described as having a “juicy hop flavor with enough bitterness to keep it refreshing and a citrusy aroma jumping out of the glass.”

Coming soon are two new varieties: the Post Oak pale ale, a “straight-up pale ale” with fruity and grassy notes and a Wholistic Hazy flavor with citrus and mango flavors. These releases follow Whole Foods’ previous foray into the craft beer space in 2015. The company also operates a brewery from one of its locations in San Jose, California. The brewery is headed by Chris Shelton, a veteran who has worked at breweries around the world, including an award-winning stint in Seoul, California and another near Naples, Italy.

Target Will Spend $2 Billion at Black-Owned Businesses Over Next Several Years

Target announced on Wednesday (April 7) that it is committed to spending over $2 billion on products from Black-owned businesses by 2025, reports CNBC. The retailer will add new products from 500 Black-owned brands, increase its spending with Black-owned businesses “such as marketing agencies, construction companies, facilities maintenance and more,” and provide resources to assist Black-owned initiatives such as the “Forward Founders program,” which is created “to support Black-owned companies and help them grow their businesses,” per a company news release announcing the commitment.

The Forward Founders program will be a sub-program of the retailer’s Target Accelerators program, which more generally supports entrepreneurs with “unique backgrounds and viewpoints.” The program aims to assist early-stage startups with educational tools and events to help them successfully launch.

“There’s more we can do to spark change across the retail industry, support the Black community and ensure Black guests feel welcomed and represented when they shop at Target,” Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief growth officer at Target, said in a statement. “The bold actions we’re announcing today reflect Target’s ongoing commitment to advance racial equity for the Black community. They also represent significant economic opportunity for hundreds of new Black-owned companies, [with whom] we look forward to doing business with for years to come.”

UK Grocer Retaining 81 Percent of Government Relief Despite Sky-High Sales

In the United Kingdom, the Co-operative Group, which operates hundreds of grocery co-ops in addition to a range of other retailers, will return £16 million (about $22 million) of the relief it received from the government for business rates relief after a 400 percent surge in profits over the course of the pandemic, reports The Guardian. However, the group will retain £66 million (about $91 million) of the relief payments, despite revenues totaling £11.5 billion (about $16 billion).

The Co-op’s CEO Steve Murrells explained that these funds were necessary to cover additional expenses for protecting the well-being of the chain’s employees, including protective equipment and virus-related sick leave. Most other comparable grocers in the U.K. have returned their business rates relief payments to the government. “We are mindful of the challenges and uncertainty and think 2021 will be as difficult a year as 2020,” said Murrells. “We need to watch how we use our resources to build a strong Co-op.

Read More On Grocery:

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