The Supermarket of the Future Is Now


Over the past few years we have seen modest changes in the bricks-and-mortar side of supermarkets in spite of supermarkets losing 1.6% of dollar sales (and the customers who represent that percentage) to other channels of distribution including drug chains, c-stores, non-traditional outlets and farmers’ markets. Shouldn’t this loss be a wake-up call that things as they are need to change?

The only subset of supermarkets that is growing is the fresh format, up 1 percentage point, and those food retailers who have focused on fresh (e.g., Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Fresh Market, Sprouts) are adding locations (estimates are an additional 320 stores by 2017) and excitement to the shopping experience.

According to Nielsen, fresh foods account for 30% of consumer expenditures on food, grocery and personal care here in the U.S. We should expect in 2014 to see dramatic differences take place as major chains include, and build on, many of the attributes of this fresh format.

Look for traditional supermarkets to wake up and rival farmers’ markets … and begin a new way of selling produce and other foods.

I would suggest that it is time that food retailers stop merchandising categories together. Learning from “upgrades” like Greek yogurt, European butters, fine wines and even the new controversial Starbucks $7 a cup experience, expect to find, for example, heirloom tomatoes, corn and melons (which traditionally sell for 50%-200% more than their commodity counterparts) to be merchandised in separate high-end display cases that are temperature controlled with the produce more carefully handled and displayed.

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Supermarkets need to once again become the center of their communities by offering such services as “community cooking centers” where shoppers can collaborate and learn from each other, rather than the old school model of instructor teaching students. It is time for supermarkets to look around us and take the lead from what has already occurred in food recipe social media, and to create a “connected culture” for and with their shoppers. These community cooking centers will also add excitement in-store with their aromas, visual appeal, participant interaction and sounds … and of course let’s push the envelope a bit and include sampling the prepared dishes for those shoppers who pass by in order to reach out and include them as well.


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A few years ago “meal assembly locations” were one of the hottest fads of the moment but consumers tired of that experience quickly. More recently we are seeing “meal kits” being promoted and sold online and delivered to your door. Everything you need to prepare six to eight meals for about $10 a meal for two. While a few supermarkets around the country have developed similar programs (Publix in particular), why shouldn’t every supermarket offer this convenience?

The 2013 NGA SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey revealed that almost half of shoppers are cooking more at home and roughly the same amount do not feel “confident” or “in control” with their cooking skills. What an opportunity for supermarkets to build a stronger relationship by offering the cooking solution; 75% of the survey respondents said they wanted better cooking skills.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Nov 1, 2013

Thanks for the post on the Supermarket of the Future. Great topic that needs more discussion.

What about innovating in the part of the store that is 70% of the shopper’s basket and 80% of the store’s footprint? Center Store represents a tremendous opportunity to improve the shopper experience—and to increase sales. Retailers have merchandised Center Store the same way so long that shoppers have ‘checked out.’ They’ve told us that they have their center-store aisles & shelves memorized so that they don’t even have to pay attention anymore! Perhaps not unrelated, Center Store profits have been dropping over the last 15 years.

If you want to change shopper behavior you must change the shopping condition. Bringing more inspiration to the store will benefit the shopper. When the shopper wins, the retail partner wins, and, ultimately, the brand wins.

Eric Daniel

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Liz Webber

Liz Webber is Engagement Director / Fresh Market Editor at Supermarket News. She covers fresh foods for the magazine and creates multimedia, blog posts and other content for the website. She joined...

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach has been with Supermarket News for more than 45 years — a span difficult for him to comprehend, having once been the youngest reporter on the staff. During that time he has...
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