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February 23, 2017

Italian supermarket giant, COOP, has opened a new concept store that uses the latest technology to give customers access to virtual nutritional information.

Motion-sensitive screens stretch above the fresh produce and meat, allowing shoppers to point at any item to view its nutritional facts, its freshness and its origin. Raising an item brings to life touch-screen columns in the aisles, displaying the item’s allergens, disposal and storage instructions.

AXA Investment Managers, the landlord of the COOP in Milan, is one of a few forward-thinking investors to spot the opportunity. But Monica Cannalire, from JLL’s Retail team in Italy, believes that many more supermarkets – buttressed by savvy investors – will utilize interactive technology to prioritize the needs of an expanding demographic of ingredient-savvy, eco-aware consumers

“Providing a large amount of information easily and accessibly is a way to improve efficiency – for customers who are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from, and for retailers who want to meet this need.”

“We as consumers can do our share – we can buy or not buy something to influence sales and the future of a particular concept,” Cannalire says. “But it’s also up to the investors who understand that this is the moment and make it possible, whether by providing the space or financial backing necessary for new concepts to take off.”

The Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey found that 66 percent of European respondents worried about the long-term impact of artificial ingredients, while 71 percent wanted to know everything that went into their food. For consumers with particular dietary needs, half did not feel current grocery stores met their needs.

Of the food sold at the 1000 square-meter COOP store in Milan, 65 percent is produced in a controlled chain where every stage is certified, from origin to packaging and display. The remainder is a curated list of big brand products.

Similarly nutrition-conscious trends look set to sweep Europe.

In Germany, Berlin’s Metro supermarket has implemented in-store “vertical farms”, where herbs and leafy greens grow in modular boxes, via soil-free hydroponic methods and under LED lights that mimic sunlight. Customers can pick these directly, eliminating the eco-unfriendly by-products of transport while taking home vegetables as fresh as possible.

Berlin is also home to the world’s first zero-waste supermarket, Original Unverpakt. Products such as fruits and grains can be scooped from bulk bins into customers’ own, reusable containers, relieving customers – and landfills – of packaging waste, and reducing the likelihood of over-buying.

As the power of the consumer dollar – and euro, yuan and pound – grows, so too do the expectations of customers: “We are opening our eyes to the way we consume,” Cannalire says, “and we are at a significant moment where big players are also believing in a better future.”

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Monica Cannalire

Retail, JLL Italy

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