The Black community has had a uniquely complicated relationship with food. While we, like many cultures, use food as the perfect excuse to fellowship, we also regularly face the pitfalls of an unhealthy eating culture, food deserts, and the countless disadvantages of lacking significant ownership in the food supply chain. Thankfully, a husband and wife duo aims to fight this very issue with the opening of the very first Black-owned fully autonomous grocery store.
Jilea and Jamie Hemmings kicked off Black History Month with the birth of Nourish + Bloom Market. The idea for their fully autonomous supermarket manifested from learning that their oldest child was diagnosed with autism at two years old. From there, they researched the correlation between autism and diet and started a company that put a healthier “spin” on children’s treats. After moving to Atlanta, their idea evolved into Nourish + Bloom.
The high-tech model allows for “walk in, walk out” functionality, enabling shoppers to take what they want from the shelves and skip the checkout line with their purchases accounted for and payment processed automatically. In an interview with TechCrunch, Jamie Hemmings explained,
“We thought of the idea a year ago, during the pandemic, to provide a solution for customers where they wouldn’t have to wait in line or touch anything while checking out,”
Customers download the app and enter their payment information. When they walk into the store, they scan a code at the turnstile which then creates the digital cart. The customer can then browse the store while a combination of 30 LiDAR (light detection and ranging) cameras and weighted shelves monitor and track that person’s shopping. When the customer leaves, their preferred method of payment is charged and they receive a receipt on the app.
In addition to in-store shopping, customers who live within three miles of Nourish + Bloom can utilize the market’s temperature-controlled delivery robots. The user reads off their order number and the hatch opens up for them to access their purchase.
The technology powering Nourish + Bloom comes from an end-to-end Autonomous Store in Box solution from Aliso Viejo, California-based company, UST. This includes retail back-office software, the Bistro module, and full integration services for diverse systems to provide a frictionless shopping experience. When speaking of their partnership with UST, Jilea Hemmings further explained,
“With UST’s help, we have successfully created a hybrid autonomous technology to offer [a] solution and combat food insecurities in underserved communities. We are confident that this technology will change how customers shop in the next three to five years.”
With Nourish + Bloom providing locally sourced and healthier foods, it also clears room for local black farmers and farming companies to feed their establishments as well. Black growers have an opportunity to gain more traffic, revenue, and long term growth that can eventually spike the development of major black supermarkets.
While major companies like Amazon Go, 7-Eleven, and Walmart are still trying to perfect their automated storefront systems, these two motivated entrepreneurs have already done so and are already prepared to scale.
With all that being said, Nourish + Bloom doesn’t have to be just a name, it could also be a narrative.