The next time you step into a grocery store, take a look around and think about how much work went into orchestrating the selection. Which CPG products should the store stock? How many? And how does fresh food factor in?
Those questions don’t have an easy answer, and they’re the reason that food retail is such a tricky business. Thankfully, there are companies trying to reinvent the space with the help of tech, innovation, and creative thinking. And we heard from a few of them onstage last month during a panel at SKS 2019.
In the panel, Brita Rosenheim of Better Food Ventures spoke with Stefan Kalb of Shelf Engine, Mike Fogarty of Choice Market and Andreas Wuerfel of METRO Group about how companies are re-imagining food suppliers to be more sustainable, more efficient, and be better at serving quick-shifting consumer demands.
You should check out the video below to get a deeper look into how companies are leveraging tech to transform food retail. First, here are a few high-level takeaways:
Food retail is changing — and fast
Kalb kicked off the panel by pointing out that the grocery space is in the midst of rapid transformation. “Because it’s a highly commoditized industry, changes spread quickly,” he said. His company Shelf Engine helps retailers stay on top of fast-moving trends by crunching customer data to forecast exactly how much of each SKU needs to be ordered. The more retailers they work with, the more data they get, the better they can help grocers optimize selection. Which, in today’s incredibly competitive food retail market, is crucial.
Brick and mortar isn’t going anywhere
“In retail, the physical space is always going to be a quintessential part of people’s lives,” Fogarty told the SKS audience. Right now, only a small percentage of grocery sales happen online (though that number is growing). Physical retail space, he argues, will be an “anchor” for all the different sales channels that are emerging now, like pickup, delivery, vending machine, and more.
Food retail is a slippery challenge. Tech can help
Wuerfel pointed out that optimizing retail in a company with a global presence (Metro has 750 stores in 35 countries) is, unsurprisingly, incredibly tricky. They have to “cater to every possible palate out there,” all while ordering the right number of products to reduce waste and maximize profit. To do so, Metro knew it would have to leverage new technologies. So it teamed up with TechStars to make an accelerator program to catalyze outside-in innovation for the company. That, according to Wuerfel, has helped their company stay on the cutting edge of food retail.
Check out the full video below to hear more insights from these three thought leaders in grocery and food sales. It’ll make you think a lot more the next time you set food in your local grocery store.