Regenerative Initiatives and the Future of the Grocery Store
As a design and research studio, we are naturally curious about the ways our rapidly changing world is creating new services and experiences. This instalment in our Future Of series continues our exploration into the ever-evolving retail sector: the ‘how, when, where and what’ of future shopping experiences.
As the effects of global warming begin to have a greater impact on all areas of life, net-zero is moving from a pledge to an expectation. Regenerative initiatives represent the next step beyond net-zero, seeing retailers implement sustainable technology-assisted solutions in their stores.
With a focus on food and fresh produce, the grocery store represents an ideal candidate through which to examine the emergence of regenerative initiatives.
We visited grocery stores and supermarkets, spoke to experts and carried out a global scan to explore these developments and discover best-in-class examples.
What we found
Across the sector, we uncovered a variety of regenerative initiatives that offer consumers accessible, timely and convenient services that actively benefit the community and the planet.
Specific to grocery stores and supermarkets, our key observations include the following:
1. Regenerative initiatives allow retailers to offer fresh, organic produce grown and picked in-store
2. They meet emerging customer priorities around resource use, food mileage and traceability
3. Not only do they challenge traditional supermarket models — these initiatives offer an alternative to large-scale farming
A market leader in these developments is Infarm, a Berlin-based grocery store centred on a regenerative approach to retail. After the success of its in-aisle, vertical farming units, Infarm is now moving into large-scale, indoor farming technology. Modular farming units the retailer calls ‘Grow Centres’ can generate the crop equivalent of 10,000 square metres of farmland, using 95% less water and 90% less transport compared to soil-based agriculture.
Allowing customers to pick their own sustainable, fresh herbs in-store, Infarm plans to establish Grow Centres in London, Paris, Copenhagen, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle and Tokyo by 2025. Retailers partnering with Infarm continue to grow as they look to offer fresh, local and sustainable food in increasingly dense cities.
What this means for retailers
Consumers know that net-zero is just the beginning. Increasingly, people’s preference for retail experiences that actively integrate regenerative, green and ethical models will drive the adoption of these initiatives across the sector.
This will likely see many flagship stores and supermarkets replaced by smaller, lower-impact grocery stores. Stocking seasonal produce from high-quality producers, these smaller stores can better embrace hyperlocal supply chains and leverage technology to eliminate food waste.
At the same time, blockchain protocols provide the opportunity to offer consumers increased transparency over the origin of their food.
Underpinning all these developments is the desire for retailers to create positive benefits for both people and the planet.
To find out more about this research, get in touch! Check out our website and follow us on Instagram to see our other projects and studio endeavours.
You can also read the first instalment of this retail investigation: ‘Phygital Experiences and the Future of the Grocery Store’.