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Cracked Pot Brings Technology to Grocery Stores

Laurie McLevish

Smart tablets are hitting their stride: replacing laptops for the younger generations, being reconfigured into kitchen appliances (part exhaust hood, part family communication vehicle), advertising the freshness of fast food at restaurant counters and supplying recipes and shopping lists at grocery store counters. 

Entrepreneur Laurie McLevish saw the benefit of using tablets in grocery stores to encourage shoppers who would love to transform the catch of the day into a meal, if they only had a handy recipe listing all the ingredients. Shoppers tend to get into a buying rut, she said, and by seeing new foods being prepared, they may be more willing to try something new—which will enable grocery stores to move specialty items, as well as perishable goods. 

Both she and her partner have day jobs—McLevish in sales and her partner in technology—but they brainstormed ideas for going into business together and hit upon developing technology for grocery stores. McLevish, a self-proclaimed foodie, focused in on the end caps where they have “all that stuff,” that is intriguing, but confusing. The partners thought, “wouldn’t it be fun to have technology with instructions on how to use the products.” Their “fun” turned into a side business on its way to becoming their main business. Grocery stores were a perfect target, she added, because they are notoriously low tech. 

The result is Cracked Pot, a Minnesota-based start-up that supplies programmed smart tablets to grocery stores as a sales tool. In tests it is solving a problem for both consumers and storeowners. Grocery stores are fighting to keep their share of food dollars as delivery services are making it easier for people to shop online or skip buying groceries all together. 

U.S. consumers spend an average of 41 minutes on a grocery-shopping trip, according to the Time Use Institute, and 40 percent need to go to more than one store to complete their shopping list. At a time when consumers are spending just 5.6 percent of their total disposable income for groceries (compared to 4.3 percent on dining out, per creditdonkey.com), grocery stores need to offer ways to make the experience less time consuming. 

After researching the options, they came up with the idea to produce one-minute instructional videos with a code to text for the shopping list and recipe to be sent to the customers’ smart phones. They put together a team, including “nationally trained chefs to do the videos,” and tested the concept at the upscale Kowalski grocery store in Woodbury, Minnesota, starting in March of 2017. “We’d highlight whatever they wanted to move,” she said. And that was the beauty of the technology. Say, the store’s shipment of red snapper isn’t moving fast enough, the smart tablets can be loaded with a recipe and shopping list to motivate shoppers to skip the halibut and go for the snapper. It’s also a way to sell produce out of season, and is especially helpful for perishable items that may need a push out the door. 

When we checked in with the Kowalski employees serving the counters, they said the videos were a hit with shoppers and they were selling more of the items being featured than they normally would. 

As they continue their test markets and building the business, McLevish said they’ve contracted with a developer overseas to start work on their store and consumer app.  

A side benefit for the store is that the videos sell side items that are needed in the recipe. Stores can provide Cracked Pot with their grocery calendars so the videos can be produced ahead of time. Plus the store can load its own videos on the tablets.

Currently, the plan is to sell subscriptions to the service with or without the hardware, McLevish said. And if you’re wondering why the company’s called Cracked Pot, McLevish explained that the original choice was What’s For Dinner, but a trademark search killed that name. The cracked pot has both a Biblical theme about making things whole, and also a cooking reference. And the bright red pot is a logo that’s hard to miss.  

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