Target Corp. is shutting down its food lab in Cambridge, Mass., after all.
Last week, an offer to buy the Food + Future lab surfaced at the last minute as the Minneapolis-based retailer was preparing to wind it down. But Target apparently couldn't come to terms with the buyer.
"We worked with the Food + Future team over the past few months to find interested outside investors, but were not able to come to an agreement," Jenn Reck, a Target spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail. "And as a result, we're winding down Food + Future and the work will come to a close in June."
The food lab, which opened a little more than a year ago, is one of a number of innovation-related projects that CEO Brian Cornell has been shutting down in recent months as Target's sales have continued to slide. He's been refocusing innovation efforts to be more closely tied to Target's core business and to those that will pay off more quickly.
"As we shared earlier this year, Target is investing in key strategies that will propel our business over the long-term and is pursuing innovation most closely tied to those investments," Reck said.
Last week, Target announced internally that Casey Carl, its chief innovation and strategy officer, will be leaving the company next month. Carl spearheaded an entrepreneur-in-residence program that helped spawn many of these projects that have been cut, including the food lab and a secretive start-up called Goldfish. Earlier this year, Target also halted a store-of-the-future prototype that was about to be built in Silicon Valley.
The food lab was the brainchild of one of the outside entrepreneurs that Carl brought to Target. Greg Shewmaker, a former Tesco executive, set up the lab to explore how Target could help lead in bringing more transparency to the food system and the supply chain. The lab, which partnered with MIT Media Labs and the design firm Ideo, also included a farm in Vermont.
The team was exploring a number of ideas including building indoor farms in some stores and was planning to test one at Target's store near Fenway Park in Boston. It also worked with schools to help boost curricula for children around how food is grown and was using spectroscopy to scan produce in order to create a database that Target could use to improve freshness in its supply chain.
Target employs about 10 full-time workers at the lab. Other positions are funded by other partners.
While Target pulls back on these projects, it's refocusing on its strategic priorities including remodeling hundreds of stores over the next few years, lowering prices to better compete with Wal-Mart and Amazon, and launching a dozen new or refreshed in-house brands.