Publix promotion signals push for online grocery shopping

By Kevin Bouffard


The Ledger

LAKELAND | Reflecting the supermarket industry buzz about the growth potential of online grocery shopping, Publix Super Markets Inc. has promoted Erik Katenkamp to the new post of vice president of omnichannel and application development.

Katenkamp was instrumental in the company’s move to online shopping, said Todd Jones, Publix CEO and president, in a company statement.

Publix in July 2016 rolled out online shopping through San Francisco-based Instacart as a pilot program in several Florida stores. The company announced in June Instacart would expand the service to all 1,152 stores in seven Southeastern states by 2020.

“We are proud of the work Erik and his team have accomplished. With dedicated resources, we will be able to focus on the accelerated growth of our omnichannel strategy,” Jones said. “Our online offerings are an extension of our in-store experience. We remain committed to providing exceptional service to our customers in whichever manner they choose to shop with us.”

As vice president, Katenkamp will focus on the continued development and execution of the omnichannel strategy, he added.

Instacart stations shoppers at Publix stores who buy items on a client’s shopping list and deliver the groceries to the home in an hour or at a designated time up to seven days later.

Supermarket industry analysts agreed the move signals the industry’s expectation for growth in online shopping in the coming decades. Those expectations have grown in the past couple months following online retail giant Amazon’s announcement it would purchase Whole Foods Market, a leading grocery chain in high-end organic and specialty foods, for $13.7 billion.

“Almost all good food retailers today have come to understand the importance of establishing an omnichannel strategy, as they know their customers have come to expect to be able to shop in whatever form they want,” said Jon Springer, senior editor at Supermarket News, an industry trade publication. “Publix seemed to approach online shopping cautiously, but the recent expansion of their Instacart agreement and this promotion would seem to indicate they are happy with the results they are seeing so far and believe there is more growth to be had in the space.”

Online grocery sales reached nearly $20.5 billion, less than 5 percent total grocery sales, but are expected to top 20 percent by 2025, according to a report on the business news website

“While e-commerce represents only a small percentage of the total supermarket shop today, it is growing rapidly behind demand for more convenience, and millennials entering their prime grocery-buying years,” Springer said.

Millennials are the generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000 and have become the biggest consumer demographic in the U.S.

“Publix, like all smart grocers, realize that they must put shoppers’ needs and wants at the head of their to-do list if they want to stay strong in the face of changing competition,” said Lorrie Griffith, editor-in-chief of The Shelby Report, a monthly grocery industry trade publication based in Gainesville, Ga. “Dedicating an executive to head up this part of the business shows that Publix is doing what it takes to compete well in the omnichannel marketplace.”

Katenkamp graduated from University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, according to the company news release.

After working in the aerospace industry, Katenkamp went to Publix in 1995 as an industrial engineer in manufacturing.