Food waste is fast becoming a popular concern throughout the food supply chain and stakeholders are ever more aware of the scale of both damage and opportunity produced by wastage.
A recent study by IGD, a research charity which focuses on retail and food industry issues, has found that consumers may be interested in new solutions.
In an online survey of 2,051 British grocery shoppers, taken proportionally from all four nations of the UK, researchers found a large market gap for technological assistance in food and drink.
The results showed that whilst rates of consumers using phone apps to aid their grocery shopping is decreasing (from 40% in 2014 to 34% in 2016) the majority say they would like more such apps, and the percentage of respondents saying they use apps for other such purposes is increasing (72% in 2014 to 81% in 2016).
Vanessa Henry, a shopper insight analyst at IGD, said this clearly shows “[…] a big opportunity for the food and grocery industry to engage and assist shoppers using technology. However, it’s essential that shopper needs are satisfied as otherwise technology becomes short lived.”
83% of respondents said apps that aid grocery shopping for any reason would be useful, with 55% of this pool expressing a desire for help finding cheapest deals.
The second dominant reason however, was helping reduce food waste – more than one in five (22%) said they would like apps to help them do this.
Other reasons included help for health and diet information (18%), help with in-store navigation (18%), access to fast delivery (15%) and nearly one in 10 (9%) want better product sourcing information.
Henry said the findings present good opportunity to the food sector.
“While it’s encouraging to see that the use of technology and digital tools is becoming established ahead of a store visit, particularly when shoppers are planning their shopping or looking for inspiration, there is a real opportunity to harness new innovations and data in driving shopper loyalty for retailers. Shoppers are clearly not shy to advancements in technology in food and grocery, and with the growing demand for progression in this area we look forward to seeing how retailers will continue to rise to this challenge.
“Technologies that might be useful to shoppers in the future could be smart home devices which could help with meal inspiration and planning, and in-store opportunities might include technology that helps speed up the checkout and payment process.”
However, some such apps already exist, particularly when it comes to meal inspiration and planning. Tackling food waste remains a more difficult area.
Currently a range of apps do exist but are largely restricted by both area and market. The most successful such app for example is FoodCloud, an Irish charity connecting producers and supermarkets with charities to redistribute unused food.
Apps aimed at aiding consumers themselves are rarer; Dutch based app NoFoodWasted is one such rarity, alerting shoppers of soon to be expired and discounted food in supermarkets. It has an average of 20,000 users per day who can also upload their shopping lists and receive alerts when relevant ingredients come online.
Expansion of these ideas and increased coordination between food retailers and consumers could evidently be a success given the consumer demand.