Looks Like Online Grocery Shopping Has Finally Arrived

Looks Like Online Grocery Shopping Has Finally Arrived
400 Amazon pickers work at my local Whole Foods

Lately, every second shopper at my Whole Foods is an Amazon employee picking an online order. Anyone else noticing this?

I shop at my downtown Whole Foods at least three or four times a week. I’m definitely aware of even the minutest changes in that store – whether it’s the merchandise, prices, staffing or my fellow shoppers.

Over the last six months, I’ve seen a huge uptick in “pickers,” i.e., workers who roam the aisles with shopping carts and scanners in hand as they fill up cold-storage bags with an online order.

And the makeup of the picker workforce is changing as well. I’m seeing many more guys, college students, and retirees. It’s almost like Amazon is dipping into the same gig workpool as Uber and Lyft. The pay is $15-$17 an hour plus bonuses. Online reviews of the job are fairly positive.

I asked one of the pickers how the online ordering works, how would I sign up. She explained that the orders are done through Amazon Prime and that all the pickers are Amazon employees, not Whole Foods. Apparently, Whole Foods has a separate group of employees to fulfill online orders for people who don’t have Prime.

She also confirmed that the number of online orders is booming.

“There are 400 Amazon workers at this Whole Foods on Houston Street just doing online orders. The delivery guys work for another company.”

Amazon picker at Whole Foods

The delivery bikes are another new development at my Whole Foods over the last few months (see pic below).

I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, I buy a lot of my kitchen staples online, e.g., cereal, coffee, condiments. However, all my fresh produce I like to pick up myself in store as I need it. The latest studies indicate that half of us are doing at least some of our grocery shopping online.

Read on below for e-marketer‘s findings on online grocery shopping.

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What’s Up With Organic? What If It’s All Just A Scam?

What’s Up With Organic? What If It’s All Just A Scam?

Illustrations by Keith Carter/ Eater.com

 

Anybody else noticing the pushback on organic? My Google News feed for “Healthy Eating” is filled with anti-organic articles lately.

 

More doctors and nutritionists are questioning the value of organic from Philly Voice’sIs organic food really more healthy? It’s difficult to tell” to Real Simple’sNo need to spend money on organic avocados or any of these 14 fruits and veggies.

At the same time, there’s more guidance than ever on “healthier” diets, e.g., Men’s Health just ran a great piece on “31 Easy Ways To Eat Healthier.Their #1 Tip is to ditch processed food. Organic comes in at #29 and is only recommended if your budget allows.

Well + Good is focusing on the “psychobiotic food pyramid” which is all about gut health and draws its inspiration from Nordic and Mediterranean diets — no mention of organics.

Also, seeing more scientific articles on fasting, especially Alternate-Day-Fasting (ADF) which sounds like a bunch of hokum but is getting traction. I had dinner last night with a friend who just started on this.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, it looks like the most significant shift is coming from plant-based diets, many of which take us right back to crappy, unhealthy processed food. That’s how I perceive it – and so does John Mackey, Founder, and CEO of Whole Foods, who was just quoted in Business Insider as saying:

If you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods. I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy.”

Bottom Line.

It’s been 40 years since Whole Foods first created the organics market. That’s an exceptionally long run for any food or diet trend.

I’m going out on a limb here but I don’t feel it has ever been firmly established that organic products are better for us than conventionally grown local produce that is consumed seasonally.

There’s also a lot of fraud and scams going on in the organic category as outlined by Eater earlier this year.

I, for one, am not convinced that organic products taste better or are healthier.

“Organic” is luxury branding for the food category. It provides a halo effect that makes us feel better about ourselves and what we’re feeding our families.

Ultimately, it’s on a par with believing a pair of Gucci $1600 sneakers will somehow, miraculously, get us better quality “steps” than if we were wearing $100 Nikes or $40 Vans.

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Electric Lemon Now Open At The First Equinox Hotel

Electric Lemon Now Open At The First Equinox Hotel

Open for only one month, but Chef Kyle Knall of STARR Restaurants is already serving up absolute deliciousness at the slick new Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards.

But as we all know, there’s more to a great dining experience than the food. The vibe and how you feel at the restaurant are equally important.

So although the kitchen is firing on all cylinders, everything else is still in startup mode.

Sitting at the bar, I was appalled to overhear one of the manager’s chiding a worker for his appearance (he looked perfectly fine to me). She has the perfect right to maintain the restaurant’s standards, but I’d rather it not be done within a guest’s earshot.

The vibe and décor of Electric Lemon (and indeed of the whole hotel) is not my style. It’s way too slick for my liking. I was shocked to learn this is a Rockwell Group-designed restaurant. I usually love the Rockwell aesthetic. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Everything I’ve read about the Equinox Hotel has focused on their efforts to dial up the hedonism and sexiness. It’s as though “healthy” needs to be countered with a nightclub vibe lest it be considered “boring.”

It must be working. From what I hear, the hotel is fully booked despite the drama around Stephen Ross and his fundraiser for Donald Trump. Based on the guests I saw, they attract an international clientele, not exceptionally stylish – but moneyed. I checked the room rates online for mid-next week; they start at $800!

Scroll down for more on the food (which was yummy) plus photos from in and around the hotel. Read More >

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Here Are The Top 10 Photos From My Trip Per Google Searches.

Here Are The Top 10 Photos From My Trip Per Google Searches.

 

I’m always astonished at the number of views some of my photos get on Google. And I’m especially baffled when an unremarkable photo gets a gazillion views – WHY?

 

As a Google Guide (Level 7), I routinely post reviews and photos from my travels. I also rely on other people’s reviews to determine where I want to stay or what I want to do or see.

To date, my photos have garnered over 7 million views. I was curious to see which places from my recent trip around the Mid-and Western States were connecting with my fellow Googlers.

My #1 photo from this trip, with over 24,000 views, is from the Mother Road Market in Tulsa. It is the first food hall to open in the city (at the end of 2018) and was jam-packed the day I visited.

My itinerary for each city was built around art galleries/museums, cool hotels and restaurants and an array of quirky or iconic activities, e.g., the Western Idaho State Fair.

Always fascinating to see what the Googlers want to know more about!

 

Scroll down for my most popular photos from this trip.

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White Claw: Are Any Of My Friends Drinking This Stuff?

White Claw: Are Any Of My Friends Drinking This Stuff?

 

White Claw was the top growth brand among the entire beer and flavored malt beverage category for the week of July 4, 2019. Volume sales grew 275% over the previous year.

 

I just heard about this brand when I stumbled upon it on thetakeout.com.

Curious to know more, I asked about it at Whole Foods. The guy restocking the beer cooler couldn’t have been more enthusiastic. Thankfully, he let me buy a single can versus a 6-pack. I got the Ruby Grapefruit. Whole Foods only stocks two flavors, and the variety pack, but there are six flavors in total.

At check out, the cashier got super excited about my purchase. She told me she was going to have a White Claw as soon as she got off work. She had also just recently discovered the brand through their TV advertising which she was able to describe in great detail: group of friends, on a boat, all having a great time. Alcohol advertising 101 – nothing new here but it certainly works. The ads are in black and white, which my cashier also considered very cool. So kudos to Agency Squid for putting this brand on the map.

Over lunch, I cracked open my purchase. Yuck! Just awful. Give me a sparkling water any day. I cannot recommend White Claw to anybody, for any occasion. It tastes like a flat Zima. Does anybody remember that product from long ago?

I know I’m not the target consumer but wow, baffling when something so mediocre, nevertheless becomes so popular.

 

Scroll down for more background on the brand.

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What Are Your Favorite Things To Order On GrubHub?

What Are Your Favorite Things To Order On GrubHub?

 

My go-to on Seamless is the green curry with tofu. My switcheroo to tofu (from chicken) happened about six months ago. I find it yummier, and I’m not even a vegetarian!

 

But it does sound like I’m right in line with GrubHub’s newly released “State of the Plate Report which analyzed data over the last six months from the half a million daily orders they receive.

The report highlights top nationwide delivery trends, along with forecasts for what we’ll be craving this Fall and Winter.

Based on the first half of 2019, plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian foods are all skyrocketing.

 

Read on below for key takeaways. It’s worth checking out – even if just to ponder how much we’re fooling ourselves into believing something is healtheir just because it’s plant-based – even though it’s highly-processed and deep-fried.

 

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The Summer Fancy Food Show 2019: When Did Fake Get So Popular?

The Summer Fancy Food Show 2019: When Did Fake Get So Popular?

 

“Revolutionary foods” made in labs by technicians are supplanting farms, kitchens, and chefs.

 

The last time I attended this show was in 2016 (link here). A lot has changed since then.

Two of the most significant changes from three years ago:

  • The absence of the Brooklyn artisanal scene, which was huge in 2016 (Brooklyn even had a dedicated section on the convention floor). Zero presence this year.
  • But the most significant change is the excitement around “free-of” products, e.g., gluten-free, non-GMO, non-allergic, non-dairy, non-soy, nontree nuts, yada yada yada. Three years ago, many of these “worry-free” products were on display, but there was very little activity in the booths. Complete reversal this year.

With that as a backdrop, here are my top 10 takeaways from the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show.

 

#1: THE FAKE FOOD GOLDRUSH IS THE BIGGEST TREND

At least one-third of the convention hall was filled with processed foods “free of” anything remotely natural, healthy or tasty.

Instead of being tempted by deliciousness and old world goodness, we’re now being cautioned to “Eat Like Your Life Depends On it.”

Examples:

  • KNOW Allergies Snacks
  • Fody (Low Fodmap & Gut Friendly)
  • Harmless Harvest Coconut Water
  • No Evil Foods (Protein For All, In Plants We Trust)

 

Read on below for more.

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My Sober-Curious Journey: From Dry January To ??

My Sober-Curious Journey: From Dry January To ??

 

Sobriety has been all over my newsfeed lately. It’s gotten so trendy Instagram is filled with #sobriety hashtags, and even, “sobriety influencers.”

  

I’m conflicted about all of this because while I can vouch for feeling much better when I don’t drink, I find dinner with friends, without wine, less joyful! Which is why, I guess, I’ve joined the mindful-drinking movement.

I dipped my toes into the world of sobriety about seven years ago when I decided to stop drinking at my annual Christmas bash where wine flowed (too) freely, and I invariably spent the next day nursing a massive hangover.

I liked how that conscious decision not to drink on specific occasions worked. I adopted the same plan for all other big parties, as well as for New Year’s Eve (I refuse to start a New Year feeling crappy). I even extended it to my birthday celebrations. Every occasion, I didn’t want to ruin by being hungover the next day got the complete sobriety treatment. Later, I added dinner parties since I seem to have no control over how much wine gets poured there either.

In other words, I have gradually eased into a more sober lifestyle by making all my biggest, most festive events alcohol-free (for me, not for other guests).

Things took a more serious turn about five years ago when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the hip. I did all kinds of research on causes and ways to minimize the symptoms. It always came down to two things: lose weight and cut back on alcohol, which is called a trigger food because it causes the inflammation that makes symptoms of arthritis worse.

As time went by, I also began to realize how much I hated waking up in the morning feeling crappy after a great night out with friends. I knew I had to do something – great nights could not automatically turn into shitty mornings. And it was evident that when I didn’t drink or when I at least restricted myself to two glasses of wine, I slept better and always woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Late last year, I decided life was too short to wake up so many mornings feeling under the weather.

I committed to doing Dry January, and although there were a few times during the month when I wished I was joining in on a great bottle of wine, I stuck with the program, and it was awesome.

Not only did I feel more clear-headed, but after just one week of zero drinking, my arthritis symptoms were significantly reduced. That nagging pain in my hip almost disappeared, and I was more limber. All my stretching exercises were more comfortable to do — a dramatic improvement in every way.

I extended Dry January into February before finally succumbing to a beautiful Barolo wine over dinner with one of my besties – who also happens to be a great wine aficionado.

Dry January was a game-changer for me. Since then, I’ve started drinking more mindfully, i.e., I’ll imbibe when out socially, but I don’t drink at all at home. When out to dinner, I have been relatively good at sticking with my two glasses of wine (ok, sometimes three!).

At the gym, on the morning that I am writing this, I realized I had not had any alcohol for five days and how much better my hip felt. There is one particular exercise that I am only able to do when I have no alcohol inflammation raging in my hip – this morning, it was a breeze!.

Over the last six months, I’ve seen how alcohol affects my arthritis, and it’s unbelievable to me that knowing how much better I feel when not drinking, I still order wine. But I love socializing, and a cocktail or glass of wine enhances that experience. And I pay the price every single time. But my drinking has been vastly reduced since Dry January.

Because I am out and about so often, I’ve been looking for evidence of the sobriety trend in action to determine how real it is.

Sober-curious makes for great headlines and book sales, but what’s really going on? I live on Manhattan’s Lower East Side near an area called “Hell Square” because of all the bars. I have not seen any of them going out of business or even being less busy. If anything, more bars have opened.

 

Read on below for more.

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