Jon Springer: Many people know you as
the analyst who “predicted” the Whole
Foods-Amazon partnership. Can you briefly recap the reasons you saw this coming?
Brittain Ladd: Groceries are the most personal items a customer shops for. They
inspect and select most of the items they buy,
especially fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and
so on. You can’t duplicate this online, and
I knew no matter how hard Amazon tried,
they would fail. The only alternative was to
buy a retailer.
We’re nearing a year since Whole Foods
and Amazon teamed up. What’s your impression of the progress the combined
company has made so far? What still
needs to be done?
Everything is exactly where I thought it would
be. Amazon and Whole Foods need to complete updating the assortment and adding a
few store-within-a-store sections, but that’s
about it. I don’t expect Whole Foods to start
having a major impact until 2021.
Amazon plans in terms of a decade. When
they acquired Whole Foods, they knew they
would spend the first two to three years perfecting the store assortment and layout; integrating systems; identifying the optimal location to build more stores; and finalizing the
strategy for how to introduce Prime Now as
the mechanism for grocery deliveries, as well
as leverage the Prime program to increase the
number of shoppers. Out of the 100 million
Prime members, only 20% shop at Whole
Foods. Amazon understands the value of
increasing the percentage as close to 100%
as possible. Everything I listed will take time
to be implemented and perfected. By 2021,
the foundation should be in place, which will
allow Amazon to be very aggressive on going
after the customer.
You previously worked with AmazonFresh,
which appears to be winding down in most
markets and/or merging with its Prime
Now offering. What can be learned from
the Fresh experiment?
Online only isn’t enough, and fresh means
everything. I’ve always viewed AmazonFresh
as nothing more than an experiment until
the optimal grocery solution was discovered.
AmazonFresh is a stopgap measure—that’s it.
Kroger + Nuro or Kroger + Ocado: Which
of these newly launched partnerships do
you see as having the biggest impact in
changing how America shops for groceries? Why?
Ocado and Kroger, by far. Nuro has a big
hole in their business model: Once groceries
arrive at a house or apartment complex, how
do the groceries get from the vehicle to the
customer? We researched this at Amazon,
and customers were not willing to embrace
a solution that required them to leave their
home or apartment to pick up and carry groceries from a small vehicle to their home. I
termed this “the last 60 feet problem.” Nuro
has a solid team and they may be able to
come up with a mobile basket that can drive
itself to the front door.
Doug McMillon asks, hypothetically, “How
am I doing?” How do you answer?
Where is Walmart’s AWS (Amazon Web
Services)? Why aren’t you investing in
Salesforce or WeWork? Why not acquire
Salesforce? India is fraught with risk and
danger—how do you prevent India from
turning into Walmart’s Vietnam? Walmart
does not have a strong track record internationally, and acquiring a company that was
losing massive amounts of market share to
Amazon is a risky bet.
What company or technology will have a
big impact on grocery that isn’t being talk-
ed about enough today?
Not even close: Zume. Zume will change the
What’s the best piece of business advice
you’ve gotten in your career?
Execution is everything. Period.
Former Amazon executive
Brittain Ladd, a Dallas-based
industry consultant on digital
transformation and strategies, has
been an outspoken voice about the
future of the grocery business.
A one-on-one conversation with an industry impresario
What stores do you typically shop?
Kroger, Whole Foods and Icon Meals.
Is a hot dog a sandwich? 54% of
Americans don’t believe a hot dog is a
sandwich, and I agree.
What’s your go-to breakfast? Two
cups goat milk, one banana, 10 egg
whites (raw), 35 grams of protein
powder. Blend and drink.