Grocery company looking to turn tractor trailers into traveling supermarkets

The plan includes "floating" grocery carts and plenty of social distancing.

A company in Canada is looking to transform tractor trailers into mobile supermarkets as a solution to coronavirus social distancing. 

The start-up, called Grocery Neighbor, was founded by 37-year-old Frank Sinopoli, who noticed the long lines and stress that comes from grocery shopping during a pandemic while trying to maintain social distance. 

“Things are changing, the world is chaotic and with that comes opportunity,” Sinopoli said to BBC News.

The company aims to create a mobile supermarket using a semi truck with a modified trailer, allowing an open-air shopping experience for customers and an easier way to social distance. 

Sinopoli says that the 53-foot-long trailers were custom built with Covid-19 in mind. 

“You’ll be walking through a tunnel,” he explained, describing shoppers entering the mobile store from the back and exiting through the front. The trailer will be laid out to mimic a single grocery store aisle, offering meats, cheeses, produce, and some dried goods. 

Only five shoppers will be allowed inside the trailer at a time and each will have their own “floating” shopping cart, which will fold out of the wall, travel along a track down the aisle, and then fold back into the wall for sanitizing once shopping is completed. 

“There’s a ‘floating’ grocery cart in front of you and behind you, people can’t touch you even if they want to,” Sinopoli said. 

Each truck will be staffed with one grocery worker and one driver.

“It will be like a bus route,” Sinopoli continued. 

Each truck will follow a specific route and schedule, and shoppers will be notified through an app when the traveling grocery store has arrived in their area. 

The first mobile units are expected to be released later this month: eight across Canada and two in the United States. 

“[We’re aiming for] 1,000 trucks to be on the road within the next two years,” Sinopoli said. 

“Based on the demand that we’ve received, we’re [targeting] the demographic that loves convenience,” he said. “We originally thought specific groups would appreciate and/or benefit from the service, like the elderly, food deserts and family neighbourhoods. But the data says it’s nearly everyone who has shown interest.”