Global Retail Trends & Innovations 2021: Award-Winning Innovation Case

As part of our collaborative annual publication with the Ebeltoft Group, JCWG each year submits retail innovations from Canada to be featured in our book, Global Retail Trends and Innovations. JCWG is proud to announce that Grocery Neighbour, a Toronto-based start-up, won case of the year in this year’s edition!

Grocery Neighbour is a new format grocery store where the store is entirely contained in an 18-wheeler truck. Each truck will stock a variety of products including fresh produce, meats, fish, or local items such as bakery or specialty foods. Similar to how an ice cream truck cruises around a neighbourhood, customers can flag down the truck to stop by using an app. The app also allows customers to scan and pay for products, as well as track their local truck to plan their shopping basket.

We had the opportunity to chat with the creator, Frank Sinopoli, to learn more about this unique new concept.

Q: How did you come up with the idea?

A: When the pandemic hit, I immediately told many groups via Facebook that this was the time to leapfrog where we currently were and that as a result of the pandemic, tremendous opportunity would present itself. When I locked myself up in a room to focus on what problem I could solve, Grocery Neighbour almost naturally formed in my mind as it was a culmination of my past. (I started and sold Canada’s first digital grocery coupon and prior to that Canada’s first stand alone Mayflower agent when united van lines bought the rights to the worlds most popular moving brand.) 

Q: What inspired you to work with local farmers?

A: From a logistic, price and quality perspective it just makes sense. But at the heart of the reasoning is really to support local businesses and to give “the little guy” a real stage to showcase their amazing produce, etc. As an entrepreneur, I want to pay homage to people out there trying to make their own dreams thrive as I’m no different than them.  

Q: Where and when will we see the first trucks roll out?

A: The trucks are rolling out very soon and we’ve promised that date to a major publication who is doing a feature video release. The first couple of stores are going to tour the neighbourhoods that voted us in so they can experience it before we commit to deploying a full-time store in those neighbourhoods. 

Q: What challenges, if any, do you expect to face as you launch?

A: The biggest challenge was deciphering between WANT and NEED… This is a really “cool” idea to a lot of people and with the abundance of votes that have come in, it was important to service the NEED first as we set out to solve problems. Additionally, the horizon of a business that services a need in my opinion carries less risk than a business based on a want that could lose its novelty. This isn’t a fad, it’s a solution to a real problem. Food Insecurity. 

Q: You mentioned that you already have some surveys underway. What is the general attitude of potential customers towards Grocery Neighbour?

A: Time is the most precious thing we have; it’s become VERY evident that people are resonating with the amount of time a service like this could save them as well as the convenience and cool factor of course. We’re incredibly grateful for the amount of demand out there. 

As the fleet rolls out, Grocery Neighbour will be positioned to curate the selection of products to each neighbourhood it serves, partnering with local farmers, bakers, and butchers to provide only the freshest product. Furthermore, in-app checkout will grant insight into what customers are buying, so product assortments can accurately reflect the ethnic, cultural, or seasonal needs of their customers.

  • Personal preference. Fresh local products have exclusively been in-store products. Unlike grocery delivery, customers can choose their own produce just how they like it.
  • No contact, no waste. Using the app, customers can pay for their purchases without checkout lines. The ability to bring your own containers even when selecting produce reduces waste.
  • Driveway convenience. For customers working from home or without cars, this service offers the same benefits as grocery delivery – but without the hassle. No minimum orders, exact arrival times, and no delivery costs.

Grocery Neighbour is the first of its kind, and the model can be expanded to include ready-to-prepare meals and more. Like a milkman service, customers are getting the freshest of the fresh from the comfort of their own homes. Even post-pandemic, with homes getting smaller and the space to store food also decreases, this model will remain relevant. We are excited to watch for the launch of Grocery Neighbour!

Click here to download your FREE copy of Global Retail Trends & Innovations 2021!


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