For those of us living on the east coast, the grocery delivery service Fresh Direct has made the chore of stocking up the fridge a little less annoying. Now, a new product and service ups the ante by providing a way to manage your shopping list before you send in your order...
The $400 Ikan, which is in beta in New York City, is a bar code scanner that stores information on items in your kitchen you need to replace. When you run out of something that has its own barcode -- coffee, milk, grapefruit juice, bread -- you pass it under the Ikan scanner, which then stores the information until you have enough items on your list to warrant a trip to the store. Rather than getting in your car or biking to the store with your shopping list, the Ikan sends the information to its warehouse and the company packs up your essentials from a partnering supermarket and brings them to you.
If you run out of something that doesn't have a barcode, such as fruit, you can press a Voice Reminder button and say what you need: "Four nectarines." A supermarket rep on the other end will manually add the requested item to your order. If you scan something the store doesn't carry a rep will call to give you a substitution.
One of the other pluses of the gizmo is that when you scan your empty box of cereal it lets you know if the packaging is recyclable in your town. Ok, that's cool but don't we all already know what we can and cannot recycle. The Ikan should remind us when trash day is so we remember to take out our recycling!
The system seems convenient, but for $400 we'd rather schlep our own goods. This could become a kitchen essential if it came free when you became a member at the partnering supermarket (you are, after all, giving them the majority of your business).
One of the cons New York Times tech reporter David Pogue mentions in his column is a similar pet peeve we have with Fresh Direct, "My one disappointment: nearly every item in my test orders came, pointlessly, in its own white plastic bag — every jar of pickles, every package of bacon. After unpacking, I put all 30 bags back into the large insulated delivery coolers that the driver had dropped off, hoping that the store would get the message. Or at least reuse the bags for the next customer."
Fresh Direct is known for putting an order of oranges in its own huge box, large enough to fit a computer monitor. It's one of the reasons we no longer use the service. What would make this a no brainer is if you could send back not just the shipping packaging, but the packaging from your empty food items (milk cartons, chickpea cans, jam jars) and the store wouldn't recycle them, but actually re-use them.
Images: Top, Ryan McFarland; bottom, The New York Times