Reconnecting with our Food Chain Through Smart Supermarkets

Sustainability Problem: Lack of Food Transparency

Few people today know where and how their food is produced, its journey, and what the overall life cycle is of the product.  This disconnect can cause people to make uninformed decisions at the supermarket, leading to poor health and an unsustainable lifestyle.

Sustainability Technology: Supermarket of the Future

To combat this opaqueness, Coop Italia (Italy’s largest supermarket chain), worked with Accenture and Avanade to develop a futuristic supermarket that enhances the food purchasing process through a more welcoming, innovative, and informative shopping experience.

Their flagship store in Milan uses interactive food displays and smart shelves to provide a more customized and immersive shopping process.  Coop Italia’s interactive tables display information pertaining to a product’s nutritional facts, origin, allergen/pesticide levels, disposal instructions, its journey and overall carbon footprint using augmented reality and sensors.  All shoppers have to do is hold up the item of interest to a reflective/smart screen.  Vertical shelving allows for easy product navigation and discovery, while enhanced labels provide a deeper insight into each product.  Real-Time Data Visualization screens add an extra layer to the supermarket and shopper relationship by displaying company values, daily sales/promotions, top selling products by category, and cooking suggestions.

Unlike traditional supermarkets, the products are organized and situated together by similar ingredients (i.e. canned tomatoes can be found next to fresh tomatoes); and shelves are shorter, providing the store with a more community-like feel, similar to the much-loved open-air/farmer’s markets of today.  These design aspects move away from the overwhelming and disconnecting feel of traditional supermarkets and instead provide a warm and enjoyable atmosphere.

There are many upsides to such a novel supermarket.  In providing a holistic view of products, end-users can factor both the social and environmental costs to the traditional price and quality qualifiers.  Understanding the true cost of a product allows for a more informed purchasing decision.  Additionally, consumer’s buying choices can directly impact the way food is farmed, processed, and delivered; forcing all companies within a supermarket’s value chain to engage in more sustainable practices to stay relevant and provide increasing value.  Finally, this dynamic two-way communication helps turn a once tedious chore (grocery shopping) into a more fulfilling and fun experience!

“Supermarket of the Future Opens its Doors, Coop Italia and Accenture Reinvent the Grocery Shopping Experience”  Accenture, 12/6/2016,
“An MIT professor designed this supermarket of the future — take a look inside”  Business Insider, 1/11/2017, Leanna Garfield


  • Consumers looking to eat healthy and reduce their impact on the planet
  • Supermarkets wanting to enhance customer engagement and their ESG practices
  • Farmers because they will have to disclose their farming and transporting practices
  • Food companies because they will be required to disclose the processing, packaging, and transportation data of their products
  • Shareholders of the supermarket since they will have to assess the ROI for making the transition to becoming “smarter”

Technology Implementation & Distribution:

Bring awareness (marketing campaigns, social media) about the smart supermarket by communicating its potential to both traditional supermarkets and end-users.

Showcase proto-types in different countries (done in Milan’s 2015 World Expo) which can help to increase the buzz and interest about this innovation.

Begin and continue to bring farmer’s and companies on board so product information can be provided in a more seamless/real-time fashion.

Select cities/areas for testing to work through any technology/operational hurdles, (current test city is Milan).

Use feedback from initial customer reactions to enhance and/or customize the user experience.

By: Bhoomi Shah  , Columbia UNI: brs2147

In response to Gillian Mollod’s Designer Davorin Mesari turns city residents into farmers blogpost:


I love this idea! Using this technology people can pick only as much as they need for their meal, resulting in less food waste (which is usually compromised mainly of fruits and vegetables) and less need for refrigeration storage. And considering that more people are now living in an urban environment, this is a great way to help people connect/reconnect with the joy and benefits of gardening. Finally, since each container consists of 16 pods, it provides customization capabilities that allow individuals to grow a nice selection of their own preferred fruits/veggies.




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