Target has announced yet another science and data-drive investment, this time with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and design firm IDEO on urban farming and other food-related research.
The multi-year project will leverage data-driven insights to study how agriculture, food consumption, food commerce, and food culture are evolving.
The retailer is looking to innovation to help with its stated goal of improving its grocery offerings, an especially difficult retail area with especially thin margins. Last month the company announced a partnership with start-up accelerator Techstars to create a new retail accelerator based in Minneapolis.
Target has put emphasis on offering more organic and whole foods and CEO Brian Cornell has emphasized that improving its grocery business is a priority. The chain announced in March that it was looking to revamp seven key grocery departments to appeal to millennial customers, and in April hired former PetSmart VP of services Anne Dament to head its grocery business. The move comes as Wal-Mart and other competitors are also reevaluating their grocery units, with Wal-Mart recently expanding both its grocery pick-up and health and wellness initiatives.
But grocery is an especially tough area, with slim margins and tricky loss prevention challenges. Target's past emphasis on fresh and organic foods may help its smaller TargetExpress stores, which contain a large amount of grocery offerings with the hope that many that live nearby will use them as a grab-and-go destination for a quick snack or dinner.
IDEO is sort of a design and technology entrepreneurial think tank and incubator, with a few food-oriented projects already underway.