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The Incredible Logistics of Grocery Stores

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The Incredible Logistics of Grocery Stores

Wendover Productions,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Ever wonder how those table grapes got from Peru to your local grocery store?

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Overview
  • Engaging


A hundred years ago, supermarkets were small and the growing season limited the produce sold. Now, you can get an immense selection of food from all over the world at nearly any time of the year thanks to an intimidatingly complex global supply chain. This Wendover Productions video describes supermarkets as “a marvel obscured by banality.” After gaining an understanding of the logistics behind even one common and readily available item – take the modest table grape, for example – you’re likely to agree with that sentiment.


To maintain inventory and retain customers, supermarkets rely on a complex global supply chain.

On the face of things, supermarket inventory should be simple: When a product arrives, grocery store workers scan its barcode. The existence of the item then registers in the inventory management software. Employees stock the item, and scan the barcode again when the item sells, so the inventory management software registers that it was sold. Then, when inventory of that item gets low enough, the store orders more. But it’s rarely that simple. 

Products can get broken, stolen or go bad. Employees have to do manual counts once or twice a month to account for those items. Inventory management also has to account for other factors: A discounted item will likely sell faster, and warm weather might mean barbecue supplies will sell out, while cold weather might lead...

About the Speaker

Wendover Productions is a YouTube channel created by Sam Denby in 2010. His other channels include Half as Interesting and Extremities.

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