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Unilever’s big move, drones and a downside for grocerants

What global grocery news is making headlines?

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Amid the many mergers and acquisitions in CPG land in the last year, surely the most fascinating must be Unilever’s deal to buy Dollar Shave Club. DSC, after all, has transformed the men’s shaving category by selling razors and blades direct to consumers online rather than in stores.

Unilever, which is said to have paid US$1 billion for DSC in July, seems to believe there’s a future in big CPGs selling direct to consumers. After all, rumours are swirling that Unilever is now bidding for the Honest Company, an e-commerce seller of consumer goods such as bath and body care, diapers and baby formula.

The Honest Company was founded by film star Jessica Alba and is reported to have annual sales of US$275 million. That’s not chump change. If Unilever does indeed make a deal, expect a lot more CPG companies to start looking at similar direct-to-consumer startups to buy up.

Dropping in with drones

Speaking about delivering straight to consumers, U.S. restaurant chain Chipotle will later this month begin what Bloomberg News is calling the “most extensive test yet” of delivering products via drones.

In this case, Chipotle will be delivering burritos to students at Virginia Tech, with part of the test aiming to find out how well packaging protects drone-delivered food.

Chipotle is working with Project Wing, a unit of Google’s parent company, on the project. “It’s the first time that we’re actually out there delivering stuff to people who want that stuff,” Dave Vos, who heads Project Wing, said.

Fries, with a side of ecoli?

Getting into the grocerant business has done wonders for many a supermarket. Stores have been able to show off their fresh credentials, and, let’s face it, most of the prepared food in grocery stores just tastes better than most of the greasy stuff served by McDonald’s and Co.

However, new research by NPD Group in the U.S. says that although consumers love the prepared food offering at their local grocery store, the rise in prepared foods sold in grocery stores is causing consumers to be more concerned about food safety in those stores.

According to NPD, 58% of consumers agree that that food sold in supermarkets is safe, down from 66% a decade ago. Concern about food safety in restaurants, on the other hand, has stayed steady in the last decade at about 47% to 49%.

If you can’t beat ’em, join em

Of Britain’s Big Four supermarket chains, Morrisons lags rivals Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda in selling online. But now Morrisons is taking a stab at the online trace, and with help from the 500-pound gorilla of commerce sites.

Morrison says it will soon start to put hundreds of Amazon lockers inside its stores, enough to build the largest collection of pickup points in the U.K.. All those people picking up the deals from Amazon will surely then grab a cart and hit the aisles of Morrisons to do their weekly grocery shop.

This isn’t the first joint venture for Morrisons and Amazon. Earlier this year, Amazon joined forces with the supermarket chain to launch Amazon Pantry, which allows shoppers to order from more than 4,000 grocery items, including fresh and frozen, with next-day delivery.

Any Canadian grocer up for working with Amazon? We wonder…

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