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Explore the grocery aisle of the future

What will grocery shopping look like in the future? It is likely to be an innovative, collaborative space…

Grocery stores and supermarkets are likely to undergo significant change in the coming years, but they will be defined by partnerships – between tech developers, environmentalists, retailers, and wholesalers.

The ultimate dynamic does not change, though: retailers and manufacturers are both looking to maximise sales in the retail environment.

Supermarkets have long been an innovative space. About 100 years ago, the shopping process involved a shopper ordering their groceries from a clerk behind a counter, who then collected their purchases from a back room, rang them up and sent the shopper on their way.

The idea of shoppers selecting their own purchases, loading them in a trolley and then paying at an exit cashier point, was a major innovation when it was introduced in the USA by a store called Piggly Wiggly in 1916.

There have since been further gradual innovations, such as later opening hours, wider selection, and more attractive display innovations.

However, the retail floor is likely to remain the dominant grocery shopping terrain for the foreseeable future.

It will also undergo changes, though, in line with the shifts in our society.  Health concerns and legislation will likely shift the display of high-fat, -salt and -sugar (HFSS) products away from off-fixture areas and checkout lines back into the aisles, as we have seen at certain South African retailers.

There is also likely to be a greater concern for sustainability and environmental impact, with a focus on minimising packaging.

The health and hygiene awareness we learned during the pandemic will also mean an increased focus on minimising touchpoints along the supply chain.

Retail-ready packaging (RRP) is likely to grow in significance, as it meets all of these requirements. RRP is a supply-chain innovation that allows products to be moved from the factory floor on a single pallet either directly onto the shelf, into an aisle, or as a freestanding unit.

The RRP sleeve also allows for innovative branding to enhance visibility in the supermarket space.

“RRP carries significant sustainability benefits,” says Conor Powell, CHEP Sub-Saharan Africa’s in-store solutions lead. “There is no need for repacking or transfer between pallets, which means fewer resources are used and fewer platforms are required. RRP also replaces the need for most secondary packaging, which in turn, avoids waste.”

The supermarket of the future is therefore likely to have a vibrant and attractive RRP presence, with distinctive, customised display platforms showcasing products. RRP platforms also tend to be smaller and more mobile, making for a modular, dynamic space that will change with every visit.

“RRP will be a feature of the supermarket of the future,” says Powell. “There are health and sustainability benefits, but also business advantages. From our European experience and confirmed by local trials done in South Africa, we have seen retail customers cut replenishment time by 75-80% and boosted off promotion sales up to 8% by using RRP.”

A distinctive feature of future retail spaces will be a partnership between manufacturers and retailers.

“Manufacturers will become more involved in designing and commissioning their own retail displays – and these will be the same supply-chain platforms that bring their goods to market. It’s a dynamic, sustainable solution, that perfectly aligns with the CHEP vision for a circular economy built on share-and-reuse principles.”

CHEP’s sustainability commitment was given greater impetus recently through a recent partnership with Food and Trees for Africa, which will see a tree planted for every 50 RRP pallets that make their way into the retail last mile.

CHEP is currently showcasing its vision of the aisle of the future at the leading event in Africa for Supply Chain Management, the SAPICS 2022 conference and exhibition in Cape Town, which closes today.

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