Food store of the future

27 May 2020
Author: Linzi McGuire

What is the food store of the future as we exit pandemic panic and online acceleration, and slowly move toward towards a new world of food shopping?

For grocery stores, the party line in lockdown remains “helping to feed the nation” but is that all they’re good for?

As a nation we’ve developed new unwritten rules for shopping in lockdown:

1. Look miserable. 2. Ask yourself repeatedly how long this queue is going to take. 3. Mumble sorry every time you come within half an aisle of another shopper. 4. Rush home and forget the whole nasty experience until you need to pop to the shop again next week.

So, what can stores do to change this and what does food shopping in the new normal look like? Here’s 6 things we think could feature in the food store of the future in a post-pandemic world:

Virtual queuing

In much the same way as we predict for out of town leisure destinations, we predict that virtual queuing and pre-planning visits is likely to feature in changes we can expect to see when visiting the big Grocery stores. Social distancing and limiting numbers of consumers in the store at one time is here for the foreseeable, so harnessing technology would be a great way to improve this experience while making a trip to your local store more time efficient.

A new way to satisfy online orders

According to Nielsen, online grocery spend surged 14% in March. So how do the grocers cope with this? One thing is clear – delivery needs to be managed in another way. As online deliveries increase, social distancing measures are enforced, and stores limit the number of people on the shop floor at any one time, stores can no longer afford to pick stock from their store to fulfil these orders. Dark store space is the future of UK Grocery, as reported by the Grocer. We may even see the rise of automated dark stores or warehouses to satisfy the online order demand.

Meal kits for dining experiences at home

As restaurants and food service outlets remain closed, meal kits are the next best thing during the covid-19 pandemic. As sales and shares for the likes of Hello Fresh and Gousto soar, how can food stores tap into this market? Could they introduce recipe boxes as a way of tapping into the cooking and baking at home trend and engage with consumers through their newfound love for cooking. Who wouldn’t love a Sunday roast kit to enjoy with the whole family, or a healthy curry kit to replace the temptation of another Friday night takeaway, or a “birthday cake from home” kit to help celebrate those special moments without compromising on quality? 

Take advantage of the UK and Ireland’s love for the pub, at home

According to research from OnePoll on behalf of John Lewis and Waitrose, 25% of alcohol drinkers said they’ve been drinking more during lockdown. The combination of lockdown and cinco de mayo saw tequila sales soar 175%, with gin and rum popular choices too, and sales of liqueurs are up 78% as consumers try new cocktails.

With pub culture embedded in British and Irish society, while we patiently wait for bars and food service outlets to open their doors, can supermarkets and convenience stores take advantage of this by making it easier for consumers to make their favourite cocktails at home? Cocktail kits, in a similar style to meals kits, may be one way to take advantage of this trend, whether it’s for now while boredom sets in, or when more people opt to host house parties in favour of going out when lockdown relaxes.

The conscious consumer

According to the latest GDP figures, we want to see more emphasis placed on health and wellbeing rather than the economy, in an effort to improve our quality of life. It’s no surprise that the pandemic has shifted priorities as people spend more quality time with loved ones and gain a greater appreciation for nature.

This could lead to a number of new lifestyle shifts. Expect a rise in demand for organic and plant-based products as consumers to look to healthier options to boost their immunity, according to research firm Ecovia Intelligence.

But it’s not only about the quality of ingredients, the impact our purchasing habits have on the environment will also be a concern. Retail week reported that 32% of consumers said they expected consumer demand for more environmentally friendly delivery options to increase in 2020. The hyperlocal shopping trend is likely to stick and we may also see the introduction of things like refill stations in stores as we seek to reduce plastic by bringing our own containers for everything from nuts and cereals, to fruit and veg, and drinks.

In the new world, the consumer will not only be concerned by price, but they’ll seek products that reflect their personal values, so stores and brands need to address these preferences, tap into this slower lifestyle, create membership communities at both local and national level, and move further into the virtual space. In a world where CSR is more important to everyone, what was previously viewed as difficult will become a must.

Make food shopping fun again

Lockdown has changed the experience related to shopping, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve moved back to the weekly shop where this becomes a notable event in our calendars, while at the same time the food shop experience has become sterile, strict and devoid of any personality. In a bid to feed the nation, stores have lost any fun factor they may have had. Stores need to find a way to bring joy back to shopping.

While following the new rules of the store, could large grocery stores become more like market spaces to leverage the weekly event? What about a rotation of pop up concession stalls, cooking demos whether in person or virtual, product demos that we used to see in department stores, and education-based family or wellness events to encourage dwell time? They’re all possible.

Customer Development Director, Adrian Hussey comments “I am excited to see how retailers capitalise on the move from ‘feeding the nation’ to engaging consumers differently post-Covid. Waitrose have already started virtual wine & gin tasting as part of its broader offer to consumers. So, for example, can Morrisons move their food boxes into supporting events or occasions to engage shoppers? Retailers need to pivot their thinking now to drive interest; loyalty is going to be key as we emerge from lockdown.”



For more information on Adrian Hussey, Customer Development Director, visit his LinkedIn page


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