Austin, TX: Where technology drives transformation

Few places in the United States are growing as fast as Austin, Texas.

The most recent numbers from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce estimate the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area totaled 2.1 million as of July 2017, with almost 140 new residents moving to the area—per day.

This ranks Austin as the third-fastest growing metro statistical area in the United States, according to USA Today, and with so many new faces making an appearance, it can be hard for Austin to keep its trademark “Weird” intact.

Many attribute the steady flow of new residents to the growth of tech companies like Dell, Apple, IBM, National Instruments, and Oracle, not to mention a slew of start-ups that make the population skew more “wired” than “weird” these days.

Austin’s growth is also keeping grocers on their toes, when it comes to e-commerce and digital offerings.

The largest natural and organic grocer in the United States, Whole Foods Market, maintains a high-rise headquarters in the heart of downtown Austin. Even following the retailer’s acquisition by Seattle-based Amazon in 2017, program expansions and pilots often figure prominently in the Austin area.

For example, Amazon first trialed its PrimeNow grocery and one-hour delivery offerings in core Austin neighborhoods before expanding to other cities. And, in its pre-Amazon days, Whole Foods first piloted Instacart grocery deliveries in Austin and San Francisco—years ahead of the San Francisco-based third-party service’s nationwide expansion.

Even the largest retailer in the region, San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Grocery Company or H-E-B, which recently acquired Austin-based third-party delivery service Favor, has earmarked Austin for growth of its digital offerings.

In a news release, H-E-B announced its plans to open a tech facility and innovation lab in Austin to run Favor operations and house the H-E-B Digital team.

Jag Bath, H-E-B’s chief digital officer, who also serves as Favor’s president and CEO, says the 81,000-square-foot facility “will be a hub for creativity and innovation as we continue to develop the ultimate digital experience for our customers. Bringing H-E-B and Favor closer together will allow us to promote collaboration between our two companies as we strengthen our commitment to building out H-E-B’s omnichannel services.”

The new facility is expected to open this year.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.

Pamela Riemenschneider is Retail Editor for Blue Book Services