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I SPIED THE WHOLE grocery universe in a single bunch of fruit. This transcendental experience occurred just last week in West Des Moines, IA. (Quite rightly.)
It all happened in a bright, spacious HyVee supermarket in an upscale, verdant neighborhood that a decade ago was pretty much a cornfield. I entered the store thinking, “They built this, so I have come.”
But my Field of Dreams reverie dissolved when I stepped up to the produce department. My first view was an abundant display of bananas – the largest selling produce item in most supermarkets.
I pulled out my smartphone and snapped this picture, with the classic lyric by Donovan resonating in my brain like a prophetic soundtrack:
You see, what really blew my mind were the two little stickers on this hand of bananas. On the left, an stacked UPC bar code and on the right a QR (quick response) 2D code. Each of these artifacts tells a little story about the impact of digital technology on our business. (Quite rightly)
The UPC bar code is of format known as RSS_14 designed to convey more information than old-style 9-digit codes. When I scan it with a gadget on my smart phone it correctly identifies the product as Dole bananas. Presumably the POS scanners in this HyVee supermarket are just as smart. The advantage: it saves the checker a few keystrokes and accurately enters the PLU (price look up) code for this variety of produce which is sold by weight.
The QR code on the right is used to direct shoppers to a web site called yonanas.com . When I scanned it with the same smart phone app, it led me to a page pitching a simple kitchen appliance that lets consumers make a soft-serve dessert from frozen ripe bananas and other fruit.
The Dole brand is featured prominently on the target Web page. Presumably there’s a deal behind it all. The Yonana appliance is marketed by Healthy Foods LLC, itself a division of Winston Products LLC in Cleveland, Ohio.
Peering at my smartphone screen under the fluorescent lights in that immaculate HyVee store in one of the greenest places in America, I found myself thinking, “It really has come to this: agricultural and digital have converged in America’s heartland.”
Then the digital banana concept set off a minor cascade of linguistic play: Bananas come in hands… Digit is Latin for finger… Smart phones are made with gorilla glass… (Quite rightly)
So in tribute to Donovan, the iconic Sunshine Superman inducted this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’d like to offer this (somewhat less lilting) variation on his theme: