Grocery Stores / by kevin murray

You'd be an unusual adult if you didn't frequent some type of grocery store, but I wonder how many of us take grocery stores for granted.  To me, every time that I go into a grocery store I am amazed at the amount of products on display, their freshness, their organization, their convenience, their quality, their good customer service, and their very reasonable pricing,  All of this is available to me, for just a short drive and the competition is fierce in this industry.


The logistics of getting fresh produce to your grocery store in plentiful supply is impressive.  This takes an extraordinary effort of coordination, transportation, refrigeration, packing, unpacking, distribution and knowledge.  Supermarkets are one of those things that we just assume is a given, and don't pay any mind to, unless something goes terribly wrong. 


To be able to get fresh food, or readily packaged food, is a real godsend, and something that in the great eons of time has seldom been available.  At my grocery store, pretty much everything that you want in order to have a balanced and nutritional diet is available with no questions asked or unnecessary fuss.  This is really astonishing and makes our lives much better.


The ability to transport foods and keep them preserved or fresh is the reason why we have such an abundance of these foods in our grocery stores.  Being able to stock up on foods that we need or crave is a time-saving and money-saving convenience.  Most Americans do not grow or have the inclination to grow or hunt for their own food and would be befuddled should it ever come down to that.


Yet, despite our taking grocery stores for granted, it takes a complicated series of maneuvers that are carefully orchestrated together to make everything look so effortless and complete. In order for a grocery chain to be efficiently stocked with products that fill its consumer needs, a sophisticated inventory system is setup which takes into account: distribution cycles, pricing, reliability, turnover, historical norms, and safety stock.   Through this sophisticated analysis and with the benefit of a database that can run through more than one scenario, decisions will be made that have worldwide implications for food distribution since food and food products have become completely globalized.


These foods will often make their way from their original distribution point to massive and centralized distribution centers of 350,000 sq ft or more for storage, organization, and ultimately to the efficient distribution of their products to us.


All of this handiwork takes the utilization of energy.  Without the necessary fossil fuels or reliable and refrigerated transportation, the whole process would come to a grinding halt.  Energy, more than any other factor, is the Achilles heel of the supermarket business.  Should energy shortages ever become the norm in America, or should energy costs rise in cost or become unstable in some fashion, the ramifications for us as consumers would be felt very quickly in the price, availability, and reliability of our day-to-day grocery shopping habits.