With the start of a new year, we’ve devoted a lot of this issue to the trends of 2019—gathered with input from retail and foodservice buyers, makers, incubators, and our own SFA Trendspotter panel.
Much of the focus is on the product categories, ingredients, flavors, and consumer eating habits that will dominate the next 12 months. Along the way, we’ve heard a lot about some emerging trends impacting the retail experience itself. Here are three to watch.
- Co-working teams with retail. Not only are co-working spaces like WeWork expanding rapidly and redefining their own industry, they have the potential to change the retail industry. WeWork launched its on-site WeMrkt stores to much fanfare, offering everything from office supplies to food and beverages so that busy workers don’t have to leave the workspace. Makers are clamoring for coveted space on WeMrkt shelves and some industry watchers anticipate that WeWork’s partnership with Hudson’s Bay department stores means it is gearing up for a larger-scale effort of incorporating on-site retail markets.
- Supermarkets are the new watering holes. What our buy-anything-from-your-couch shopping world offers in convenience it lacks in experience. Retailers are combatting that with more and better in-store attractions from free snacks while shopping to full-blown, on-site food halls. In-store bars may be the new standout feature. We are seeing a swell of them: Oliver’s Market in Northern California’s Sonoma County has Oliver’s Tavern Off the Green; Albertsons flagship store in Boise, Idaho, has Broadway on the Rocks; and Raley’s Market in Sacramento, Calif., offers wine or kombucha on tap. Markets are increasingly poised to be the community meeting places of the new world, with the right incentives to get shoppers off the couch.
- Robots and cashierless shopping. Last spring, Ahold Delhaize introduced Marty the Robot at its Food Lion store in La Follette, Tenn. Marty spent days sweeping the store, scanning shelves for out of stocks, and generally fascinating and endearing himself to customers. Since then, Ahold has announced plans to roll out robots at its 171 Giant and Martins stores. Other retailers like Schnucks are also piloting robots. Similarly, tap-and-go tech offered in Amazon Go stores, is likewise being adopted throughout Europe by chains like Albert Heijn in the Netherlands and Ahold Delhaize. While Ahold hasn’t specified plans to roll out cashierless stores in the U.S., once it is ready, it can spread rapidly among 2,100 locations under several banners. How far some of these tech advances will expand—and their very real impact on frontline workers and stockers—remains to be seen.
You can explore more retail trends at the upcoming Winter Fancy Food Show, at our education sessions, and in interviews with industry leaders via SFA News Live. These resources will also be available to download or watch on specialtyfood.com after the show.
Editor, Specialty Food Magazine