From the NYT:
Peapod, an online grocer in the Northeast and Midwest that provides home delivery, recently developed a feature on its mobile app that allows customers to restock household staples by scanning bar codes with their smartphones at home.
“You are finishing the box of Cheerios, pouring your last bowl,” explained Mike Brennan, Peapod’s chief operating officer, “and before throwing the box away, you take out your phone and scan the bar code.” The order goes straight to the consumer’s virtual shopping basket.
Back around 1995, I wrote a consulting report for Peapod, advising them that there was this new thing out there called the Internet and that it was going to be big, so they need to have a "website" rather than their then-current bank of dial-up modems and non-HTML software interface.
I followed-up with a speculative report for private investors on the next level beyond Peapod, which would appear be what Peapod is groping for in 2013: to bring the logistics revolution to your pantry. American retailers have become vastly more efficient at minimizing their capital and warehouse space tied up in inventory. They scan bar codes to know when they are running out of a product so they can order more just-in-time.
But one way they lower nominal prices is by offloading much of the cost of inventory management onto their shoppers. To shop at Costco, it helps to have a strong back to lift cases, an SUV to carry your purchases home, a large amount of storage space, and maybe a second refrigerator for storing goods. For example, I'm currently drinking a lukewarm Kirkland diet cola from Costco that I just got from my storage dump on my back stoop, because I have no more room in my kitchen, much less my refrigerator.
Not surprisingly, spoilage tends to be high as well because container sizes are so large.
In the distant future, families will use inventory management systems that track the depletion of groceries off their shelves and deliver optimally sized new shipments as needed. But, as I pointed out in 1995, there were huge hurdles to this process. Perhaps the most daunting I could see was how to deliver fresh (and thus spoilable) groceries to household where nobody is home most of the day.