THE FUTURE OF SUPERMARKETS

The grocery industry has seen some dramatic changes this year with technological advances and consumer consciousness driving a revolution across the market. These advances will only increase in the future and are set to disrupt the traditional bricks and mortar store as we know it. Consumers are facing a famine of capacity as they have less time, less space but want more from their supermarket. “Consumers aren’t just ready for change, they’re driving change. They’re looking for hacks that make shopping and cooking quicker and easier,” said Foodstuffs general manager of membership and property, Lindsay Rowles.

Countdown’s general manager of merchandise, Scott Davidson sees the conscious consumer as a driving force in the future of the supermarket. “Customers today have an increased interest in social and environmental issues which in-turn impacts their purchasing. Our role as a supermarket retailer is to keep ahead of these sorts of trends, but also to respond to demand.”

With these demands, the traditional grocery store will be virtually unrecognisable in the coming years. Here are some ways in which the traditional grocery store is set to evolve:

Not Just A Supermarket

To combat increasing competition from online-only food providers supermarkets are having to create a full experience for consumers. The traditional bricks and mortar store will no longer cut it as customers will seek a better reason to head in store. Supermarkets will become mini community hubs with food vendors, bars and even laundry facilities offered in the store. US chain Kroger Co. has already announced plans to open a similar concept store in 2019. The supermarket will include a laundromat, bar and ready-to-eat meals supplied by a variety of different vendors stationed within the supermarket. “A natural progression of that concept is in-store dining, with tables inside or out the front of stores, and that’s an overseas trend we’re watching with interest,” said Foodstuffs’ Lindsay Rowles.

Auto Replenishment

Auto fulfilment is already practised by a number of online providers, but supermarkets should also offer this convenient option. Consumers will be able to select an option that allows basic everyday items such as toilet paper and laundry powder to be automatically refilled and delivered to their home every week. New Zealand artisan cereal producer, Yum Granola has a breakfast club which allows users to sign up to either fortnightly or monthly cereal subscriptions.

Bye Bye Checkouts

Amazon Go and a number of supermarkets overseas are already testing cashier-less stores, but this is only set to increase. The positives of the check-out free store far outway any negatives with no queues being the biggest drawcard.

Rowles has acknowledged this growing trend and hopes to one day implement this in Foodstuffs’ stores. “A rising trend overseas is the checkout-less store – letting shoppers choose their groceries and leave after paying automatically and electronically. Select PAK’nSAVE stores already have something similar with the SHOP’nGO hand-held scanners, and we’re about to trial five Smartcarts at Four Square Ellerslie which have cameras on the corners of the basket. Many shoppers already use self-checkouts now of course, so going checkout-free is a logical next step as technologies are refined.”

Online Revolution

The online grocery trend is only set to increase as online shopping platforms become more advanced and user-friendly. Recommendations, auto-replenishment systems and user-focused technology will along bring more consumers online earlier this month. US Grocery chain BJ’s added a tinder inspired online shopping feature called the ‘Discover Experience’ to its app. The grocery app allows users to either swipe right to add a product to their wish list or swipe left if they don’t want it. The Discover Experience is then personalised through machine-based learning from a customer’s previous swipes. While a number of supermarkets are also trialling driverless cars for delivery.

Fake Meat and Bugs

A trend that is only set to increase is more meat-free alternatives. Countdown recently announced the stocking of ‘Minced’ a meat-free alternative that uses soya beetroot, mushrooms, tomato and coconut oil to replicate beef. “We think the awareness of vegan and vegetarian diets will continue to influence and create even more new product development in this category,” said Scott Davidson from Countdown. Bugs are also set to be stocked on supermarkets shelves. UK chain Sainsbury’s announced earlier this week that they would begin stocking edible crickets.

AI and Robots

Supermarkets are already embracing the use of robots and AI in store with chains such as Walmart using robots to pack online orders and digital tech companies creating AI identification systems that estimate the age of consumers wanting to buy restricted goods such as alcohol. AI-powered tech will only increase as the industry discover more ways to utilise it.

Meal Kit Partnerships

As a way of fighting the looming threat of online meal kit offerings, some supermarkets have begun to partner with their competition. Most recently American supermarket chain Kroger acquired meal kit delivery business, Home Chef for $700 million. The partnership will see Home Chef continue to run its online delivery service as well as stock its meal kits in Kroger’s physical stores. Amazon Go has a large selection of meal kits in its store while earlier this year online meal kit company Chef’d opted to stop its online service and is now only sold in supermarkets.