Today’s supermarkets respond to the current needs of consumers. Increasingly, supermarkets are located in urban and residential areas, leaving aside the behemoth hypermarkets on the outskirts. Monthly purchases in these macro spaces are no longer so frequent. However, these days, daily shopping is more frequent with small volumes and close to home or work. It is what we already know as proximity commerce.

 

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But how is this proximity model evolving?

These last years of awareness for the planet, marked by a pandemic that has made us all feel vulnerable, are characterized by a consumer profile that demands more transparency. They also want more proximity to the products they consume.

In-store farms are a new business opportunity. These are mini vertical farms located within supermarkets and other grocery outlets. One of the strengths of these systems is the self-sufficiency of food production, as well as improving food safety, its quality, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the food supply chain.

WHOLE FOODS · USA

Whole Foods has been a pioneer. In 2013, they transform the rooftop of their store in Brooklyn, covering it with greenhouses for fresh herbs and vegetables.

 

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O’HARE’S AIRPORT IN CHICAGO · USA

At the Windy City airport, they have been growing their herbs, beans, lettuce, and even peppers for years! The production is cooked in the 4 restaurants of the airport itself. In addition, the room where they are grown is a relaxation area for travelers.

The aeroponic garden is made up of 26 towers that house more than 1,100 spaces for planting. The entire system is self-sustaining and does not use chemicals.

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IGA SUPERMARKETS · CANADA 

In 2017 this chain of supermarkets in Montreal, Canada opened its garden on the rooftop of the supermarket. The plants are watered with water from the store’s dehumidification system. As the green roof reduces heat islands and improves biodiversity: early last spring, the farmers on the roof found a bird’s nest.

Over the years they have increased the variety of products to grow. Today they have four types of kale, three varieties of chard, radishes, young white turnip, beets, carrots, green beans, yellow beans, tomatoes, eggplants, regular and exotic spring mix, baby spinach, arugula, broccoli, cabbage, red cabbage, and cauliflower. They even have hives to produce premium quality virgin honey.

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REWE · GERMANY

Flowers are grown in the parking lot of a supermarket in Germany of the company Rewe. They also raise fish and herbs on the roof. It is an aquaponics system where the fish feces become compost for the plants, all free of pesticides or antibiotics.

In the supermarket of the future, not only food is sold, but it is also grown.

Thanks to this, they save 6 tons of plastic per year in packaging, as well as in carbon emissions from transport.

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RAMI LEVY · ISRAEL

Another urban garden project is the Israeli chain Rami Levy where vegetables grow on its vertical walls in the establishments themselves. These edibles are pesticide-free and minimize water consumption. Local farmers are the ones in charge of maintaining the crops.

The project is commercially viable, as many supply chain expenses were greatly reduced, as well as distribution and transportation costs. In addition, they can vary what they plant depending on the products most in-demand and sold in the supermarket.

 

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METRO · FRANCE

In the French town of Nanterre, the Metro supermarket chain offers its customers aromatic herbs grown in showcases with LEDs and roots immersed in mineralized waters. They manage to offer very fresh products without pesticides.

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WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BE LIKE FOR IN-STORE FARMS? PROS AND CONS

Roofs converted into crops have very good results since they allow growing a large number and variety of vegetables. In addition, the vegetables that are sold in the store are always at their right point of maturity, something that does not always happen with vegetables bought abroad. Another positive point is that these last one or two more weeks, perfect for sale.

However, vertical display case farms have a small production capacity that does not promise to supply the needs of supermarkets.

Over the years and the advancement of technology, the price of self-cultivation of vegetable crops has decreased a lot. This allows for easier implementation and faster expansion, allowing for wider margins.

However, operating an in-store garden is not an easy task. The store staff will need the training to monitor proper operation. Besides, allocating many hours and removing the employee from other tasks that also have to be performed. In the event that something goes wrong and there are fungi or any other biological process that invalidates the product, all cultures must be removed to sanitize the display cases. This would mean having them empty for days, projecting a bad image, and stopping making money in these m2.

GASTRONOMIC THEATER

In these cases, it is more of a gastronomic theatrical sales strategy for consumers.

In recent years, consumers have become more demanding and want transparency. They want to know where food comes from and how it has been produced.

Thanks to the growth cabinets and green rooftops, a relationship of proximity and transparency has been created with the customer, which enhances their loyalty and recurring visits.

However, the low production of some self-cultivation crops in stores, responds to a greater extent to a gastronomic theater with the aim of increasing sales. It is not surprising that this plant exhibition is a claim to attract consumers to the physical store and strengthen their loyalty.

 

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