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Ziscuit and Mara bring cheaper groceries to lower-income consumers

Ziscuit calls itself the world's first grocery search engine and aims to do for supermarket shopping what Kayak did for finding cheap flights. Consumers enter their shopping lists or recipes and indicate how far they'll travel and how many stops they're willing to make.

The search engine then compiles a list of what to buy where, providing combinations of different stores. After selecting their preferred option, the user can then print out shopping lists sorted by store. Ziscuit estimates that people can save USD 520 annually by using their service. The startup launched in Atlanta and aims to expand to Alabama next, with other US cities on the horizon.

In Brazil, meanwhile, Mara also sells low-cost supermarket items to lower-income consumers who don't have easy access to affordable groceries. Customers select products from the company's website. The following day, their order is delivered to a neighborhood store that functions as a pickup point and handles payments, so customers don't have to pay online. Those small businesses benefit from the extra foot traffic and also receive a commission on orders.

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Inflation is hitting highs that many countries haven't experienced in decades. In the US, for example, the February 2022 Consumer Price Index reported a 7.9 percent jump for food, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending July 1981. In Brazil, F&B increased by 9 percent over the same period.

In response, consumers are switching to cheaper brands or changing where they shop. For those who were already struggling from paycheck to paycheck, the need to find affordable groceries is even more acute — creating space for online/offline hybrids like Ziscuit and Mara to make a difference.