Nourish Markets open first fully autonomous store in Delaware
NEWARK — Imagine walking into a small café and being able to pick up a sandwich and snack and pay for it, all through remote payment options and without scanning a single barcode.
That’s the future that Sophia and Kevin Macauley, the owners and founders of startup Nourish Markets, hope to bring to Delaware with their first retail store in the Christiana Executive Campus off Churchmans Road.
“The technology definitely differentiates us from what’s out there and I feel there’s very few competitors using it,” Kevin Macauley said. “I also think it’s the future. You’re going to see the Targets and the Walmarts use this, that’s how mainstream I think it will be. We want to be the first adopter of this and help pass the savings from doing business to our customers.”
The store looks like any other, with rows of snacks on shelves, a coffee machine and refrigerators stocked with cold drinks, yogurts and take-out options. Pre-made wraps, bowls and salads are prepared by chef Tim Bolt of Full Circle Food and restocked every week, while drinks and dry goods are restocked every two weeks on average.
But what makes Nourish Markets stand out is that there is no cashier behind a register and no staff on hand to immediately restock products. Instead, the store has leans heavily into artificial intelligence with partner Adroit Worldwide Media (AWM), a California-based retail technology company.
AWM specializes in technology that includes automated check-outs to gauge when to restock food and automatically cataloging which products get sold — and deducted from a customer’s pre-registered card.
The autonomous store itself is measures just 160 square feet in a small café, secured by a gate that can’t be accessed unless a customer downloads a specific app — which requires registering a debit or credit card — or swiping a card at the gate itself. Once inside, AWM’s technology creates a session for each customer, and small ceiling cameras with tracking algorithms can follow them through the store.
Each shelf has sensor weights to detect when a product is taken down, and predictive algorithms can narrow down which item was selected.
“Each camera in our system has already been trained on the particulars of a product — the shape and color. Because of the weight that comes off the shelf and where it was on the shelf, all these can predict with a 99.8% accuracy what [a customer’s] thinking,” AWM Senior Vice President of Production and co-founder Kurtis Van Horn told the Delaware Business Times.
Since the shelf sensors measure weight, they can also calculate through the automated inventory intelligence when the Nourish team can best restock the product.
Check out is simple. Leave the store, and since the AWM technology can recognize the product, the store charges your account the total amount.
AWM is a 7-year old company that first started in “micro markets,” but had built the technology to scale so it can be adapted to various environments. At this point, the company works with 25,000-square-foot warehouses to municipalities that require badge swipes for equipment, as well as grocery stores and freezers.
Nourish Market is a combination of cutting-edge technology and a passion for clean eating. Sophia Macauley was passionate about health food, and when she came to study at the University of Delaware, she struggled to find those food options at a convenient location.
“I always had to be prepared, everywhere we go, with snacks and meals. Even at airports when we’re on the move,” she said. “There’s this huge movement now for people wanting to eat healthier. So we started to think: How can we make this more affordable and convenient for people?”
Originally, the concept of Nourish Foods was vending machines at locations that look for quick, take-out or snack options like universities, hospitals and airports. But that later grew into “micro-markets” with self-check-out options.
Kevin Macauley, a Delaware State Police trooper, looked into autonomous checkout technology to streamline the process and to set Nourish even further apart from the competition.
“We reached out to a lot of other companies, and AWM seemed like the best fit for our company, from the quality of their technology, cost and their great team that we clicked and connected with,” he said.
Nourish Markets signed a multi-year lease at the Christiana Executive Campus with owner Delle Donne & Associates. The Macauleys believe that the location will provide a strong entry into the northern Delaware market, as well as ChristianaCare and Delaware Technical Community College’s Stanton Campus.
But even discounting outside foot traffic, the Christiana Executive Campus provides a strong captive customer base with up to 2,000 employees.
“Think of it like a true corporate campus with more than 100 companies,” Delle Donne & Associates Vice President Eugene Delle Donne said. “You get that synergy you wouldn’t from a standalone building. It also offers an opportunity for us to have Nourish as an amenity to offer to our tenants. In this day and age, people are looking to grab-and-go, especially for people working around the clock.”
While the Christiana Executive Campus marks Nourish’s first entry into the market, the Macauleys are in conversations with companies in Ohio, Texas and California for future expansion. Ideally, the concept could work best in hospitals, office campuses and possibly multi-family apartment complexes.
As for the technology behind Nourish, Van Horn sees it being more ubiquitous in retail stores as time marches on.
“You’re seeing 16-year-olds comfortable with this technology, and that age group and younger are going to start demanding it eventually,” Van Horn said. “It’s like online shopping. People were hesitant to share credit card information, but now it’s like if it’s not here tomorrow, it’s a problem. This is the type of technology is what the next generation is expecting — and we’re at the tip of the iceberg.”
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