The Supermarket of the Future

The Supermarket of the Future

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The July 2017  edition of Consumer Reports magazine is dedicated to “all things Supermarket” - from the listing of “Consumer Ratings of Supermarkets” throughout the nation to “Healthy Shopping” tactics for vegans, and even “How to Save Time & Money” for  supermarket shoppers.

One interesting part of this edition is entitled: “The Supermarket of the Future”, which is introduced with this interesting quote: “Some innovations have a toehold in American stores; others are being introduced first in Europe. It could be five to ten years before they are common, but experts believe it’s a matter of WHEN...not IF.”

So, read on and enjoy what the editors of Consumer Reports view as a pretty reasonable prediction as to how that “store down the street” just might look in just a few years.

MERCHANDISING TIP OF THE WEEK. Consumer Reports lists eight changes that you can expect when you shop the “Supermarket of the Future”:

Easy Checkout. The article explains: “In-store sensors connected to a smartphone app keeps track of each item you select. The app runs a tally. It also cross-checks your list or selected recipes to tell you what you forgot. As you exit, the app charges your mobile-payment system.”

Curbside pickup. While many stores already offer this service, the “Future Supermarket” will refine and expand the procedure: “Order from your smartphone or computer. A staffer loads your bagged order directly into your car, within the chosen time window. Or, you can request home delivery.”

Smaller spaces. “Newer stores will be smaller,” continues the article, “with more space devoted to fresh produce, as well as deli and prepared items, and less space to interior aisles of branded packaged goods.”

How may I help?” The future supermarket goes far beyond a “greeter” in addressing the needs of its shoppers: “Trained ‘concierges’ wander aisles like boutique salespeople, offering meal-prep ideas and other suggestions. As you wander, store sensors connected to your smartphone trigger recommendations, too.”

Grab and Go.  It becomes more and more obvious that people enjoy—more than ever—eating their meals at home. But they view cooking in a different way than in years past, when it took a long time to assemble ingredients and even longer to slice, dice, and chunk them to add to a detailed recipe. Cooking, now and in the near future, will rely on semi-prepared foods and ingredients: “Meal kits, rotisserie chickens, and other prepared foods are near the front, where you can buy them in a hurry. Or, have whole meals prepared fresh to order while you shop.”

A feast of info. The Consumer Reports article continues: “Sensors, detecting that you’ve picked up an item, launch a display showing nutritional data, possible recipes and food pairings, information on where and how the food was grown or raised, and even the farm’s labor and animal-welfare practices.”

Dynamic spaces. This future change certainly gives a new dimension to “brick-and-mortar” stores, as outlined in the article: “Movable walls, shelves, and fixtures can be configured to create an area for cooking demonstrations and tastings by day, a casual bistro by night. Older markets, removing interior shelves permanently, fill the space with fresh-fare “grocerants.”

Virtual choices. “Rather than encountering a dozen brands of Dijon mustard,” the article explains, “you might find four, plus a screen you can scroll through to order one of the eight other varieties, which the store keeps in stock out of sight. The screen recognizes your smartphone and proposes new products to try. Your picks are delivered to you at checkout or directly to your home.”

Many of these changes have already begun—some are evident in today’s supermarkets.  No matter how supermarkets might change, consumers are changing and will continue to do so. Witness that in this interesting account of one shopper’s strategy (also from Consumer Reports): “AnnMarie Henry cares a lot about the food her family eats. During growing season in her town of East Nottingham Township, PA, the 35-year-old stay-at-home mom walks down the street to her Amish neighbors’ farm to buy fresh eggs and pesticide-free strawberries, vegetables and herbs. She skips the supermarkets near her home to purchase the ‘perfect’ organic oranges and lemons that she says she can only get at Wegmans, a 30-minute drive away. About once a month, she’ll also make a special trip to Trader Joe’s, 40 minutes away, to load up on the organic brown rice and quinoa noodles she feeds her 1-year-old, Adam.” Needless to say, future consumers will be seeking nutritional foods from sources that understand the importance they (the consumers) place on information and transparency. Happy the Future as well!

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