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Back to the Supermarket of the Future

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads…” – fair enough, but we’ll most certainly need food. With the planet’s biggest retail show (NRF) kicking off this week, what better way to start things off than getting a taste of what the future of retailing has in store for us? Showcased initially during last year’s food-themed Expo Milan in Italy, Italian Coop’s mesmerizing “Supermarket of the Future” is back for NRF’s Big Show with a dedicated exhibition showcasing their vision of the future of retailing and industry trends to come. Get ready for some serious inspiration!

Ever wondered what a trip to the supermarket might look like in 2050?

If you didn’t have the opportunity to visit the Future Food District and Coop’s visionary supermarket at the Expo Milan, just imagine walking through a fully supplied and functional forward-looking grocery store with over 1,500 products, powered up with over 250 Kinect devices and the latest digital technology.

“Supermarkets will still physically exist in 2050, but they will be transformed into places where people will go not only to shop, but also to meet other people and find relevant information about the high-quality products they’re looking for.”

Gabriele Tubertini, CIO of Coop Italia.

As you browse and pick your items, digital information pops up on digital screens hanging over the shelves. If you’re wondering where that olive oil is from, just point your finger at the bottle and start reading. Allergic to nuts? Bring it up on the screens and the system will tell you which products have nuts and which don’t. Looking to buy responsibly? Let the supermarket walk you through the products’ production chain. In the Supermarket of the Future, sensors, robots, interactive screens and apps will help you learn more about the products you’re buying, and help you in finding just the right ones for you. Have a look at the video below to get a better idea of what the supermarket is all about:


Imagined by Italian architect and MIT professor Carlo Ratti in collaboration with Coop, Italy’s largest retail chain with more than 7 million consumer members, the project was brought to life through a partnership between Microsoft, Avanade, Intel and Accenture. The Supermarket of the Future is, in a nutshell, an ultramodern sustainable take on the traditional local food market, with the benefits of high-tech equipment such as cloud technology, IoT and mobile technology.

The layout of the Supermarket in itself is quite a visual treat, with low, well-designed shelves, organized displays and elegant digital screens, providing plenty of space for interactions between customers, while cutting edge technology adds a playful and surprising engaging and responsive dimension to the shopping experience. “Technology such as Kinect and Azure combined with interactive shelves and digital screens helped us overcome some of the barriers that are typically encountered in today’s supermarkets, where cluttered aisles, vertical shelves and limited information are preventing potential interactions between customers, tainting purchase decisions, and blocking the view across the shop floor.” explains Gabriele Tubertini, CIO of Coop Italia.

We wanted to create an experience that was as seamless as possible, without any physical intermediary. Thanks to Kinect and interactive technology, we were able to share real-time data on suspended screens, all triggered by natural gestures.

No stones were left unturned in this experiment, and in the “valley of the products” as Tubertini calls it, everything was designed to make the experience as seamless and natural as possible. “People really appreciated the intuitive aspect of the experience, where no additional cumbersome technology was required in order to operate the new innovative features. We wanted to create an experience that was as seamless as possible, without any physical intermediary,” explains Tubertini.

And the innovation didn’t stop there. Taking their ideas beyond just the shop floor, the creative minds behind the experiment rethought the architecture of the Supermarket of the Future itself. By locating the stock right beneath the shop floor and collecting data from various sensors, they were able to use the information to fully optimize the replenishment of the shelves and rapidly procure new assortments in an automated fashion.

Every product has a (vital) story to tell

A trip to the Supermarket of the Future is like…well, nothing like a current trip to the supermarket. The combination of innovative features such as motion gesture controlled devices, real time data and augmented visualization, allow for a whole new level of nutritional labelling and consumer information. There’s more to a product than just its price or looks, and in a world where health and wellness are at the forefront of most customers’ minds, providing substantial product information is crucial. “In today ‘s supermarkets, information is presented in an extremely fragmented way. In the Supermarket of the Future, we were able to provide the customers with all the information they need to make an informed decision,” explains Tubertini.

“By pointing your finger at a product, you would get instant information about its origins, ingredients, nutritional value, carbon footprint, as well as information about the best-sellers and promotions.”

Providing accurate and reliable information about the products is one of the key aspects of the Supermarket’s digitally augmented environment. Right from the tip of their fingertips, customers are able to access information such as origin, allergens, nutritional data and carbon footprint. From a business perspective, smart screens allow suppliers to provide promotional content and interact with customers, directly in the store. This exchange of data and information opens new possibilities for retailers to gather insights on shoppers’ demographics and preferences, improve customer service and response time, and enable sales, service, and marketing professionals to be as productive as possible.

The future will either be green or not at all

Getting a glimpse of what the future might hold has never been more important than in today’s fast-paced, digital, health- and environmentally conscious society. As the world’s population is set to rise to more than 9 billion by 2050, pressures on natural resources will increase together with the need to secure sustainable food supplies and adopt responsible behaviours. A growing number of retailers around the globe are already looking at transforming the customer experience and reducing their environmental impact, whether it’s through broadening their E-commerce activities, leveraging innovative technology, jumping on the sustainable wagon or educating consumers.

The Supermarket of the Future is first and foremost a vision, inspired by a strong desire to bring people together, encourage responsible consumption and question current methods. It’s a leap forward in terms of user experience, technology and sustainability, and clearly shows the type of quality experience we might expect in the future – without having to gun a DeLorean up to 88 Mph…

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To read more about Coop’s Supermarket of the Future, head over to Carlo Ratti’s website here, and if you’re planning on visiting NRF’s Big Show, make sure to drop by the Supermarket of the Future exhibition at the Intel Pavilion – Booth 2543.  Gabriele Tubertini, CIO of Coop Italia, will also be discussing the project and answering questions at 10:15 AM on January 18th, in the Big Ideas Room 4.