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Amazon Opens Fresh, Its First Non-Whole Foods, Brick-and-Mortar Supermarket

Plus, Instacart is being sued by the DC attorney general, and more news to start your day

An illuminated black and blue “Ask Alexa” kiosk in the produce section of the Amazon Fresh grocery store. Amazon
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

Apparently Amazon thought now was the time to pivot to “inside”

Last year, Amazon announced plans to open a line of grocery stores, and now, in the middle of a pandemic, the company has delivered on the threat/promise. Fresh, which opened in Woodland Hills, California yesterday, “is designed from the ground up to offer a seamless grocery shopping experience, whether customers are shopping in-store or online,” Jeff Helbling, VP of Amazon Fresh stores, told Progressive Grocer. But from the promotional video, it basically looks like Whole Foods, another Amazon property.

The main differences appear to be with expanded use of AI and monitoring technology. There are Alexa kiosks located around the store, a pick-up window for anyone who has made an online order, and the “Amazon Dash Cart,” which appears to automatically charge customers for whatever is in their carts when they walk through a specific lane. Fresh will also carry more conventional brands than Whole Foods.

There have been widespread complaints about the quality of Whole Foods going down since being acquired by Amazon, so shopping at Fresh is less about convenience and more about making sure customers do everything with Amazon. Gotta make sure Jeff Bezos, who added $35 billion to his net worth this year during a pandemic that has resulted in widespread unemployment and food insecurity, has more opportunities to profit!

And in other news...

  • The FDA warns about hand sanitizer that’s packaged in vodka bottles, food pouches, or other food and drink packaging. [CNN]
  • DC Attorney General Karl Racine is suing Instacart for allegedly deceiving customers over at 10 percent “service” fee, which many customers assumed was a tip, but which actually went to Instacart. The company also allegedly failed to collect sales tax in the District. [CNN]
  • COVID-19 is affecting China’s traditions of family-style ordering and hotpot. [Washington Post]
  • How chef Nina Compton is dealing with the pandemic in New Orleans. [TNY]
  • Cheesecake Factory has allegedly been keeping employees from being public about positive coronavirus tests. [Bloomberg Businessweek]
  • Starbucks is rolling out an initiative to encourage employees to vote, including giving employees time off to vote if they need, which is already mandated in most states, and election day should be a federal holiday anyway. [RBO]
  • The Met’s reopening is good news for the hot dog vendors that set up outside. [NYTimes]
  • The Coca-Cola Co. is restructuring its business, and offering “a voluntary separation program” to 4,000 employees. [FoodBusinessNews]
  • Selena Gomez has signed on for a second season of her HBO Max show, Selena + Chef. [Vulture]