1. Fico Eataly World
Founded on a collaboration between the mayor of Bolgona and the Eataly food hall chain, Fico Eataly World has been dubbed the world’s largest food theme park – and it doesn’t cost a penny to enter.
The project was designed as a showcase for Italy’s food culture, showing off not just culinary delicacies but also the agricultural techniques and production processes used to make them.
Sprawling across 100,000sqm (10 hectares) of land, the “agri-food park” takes the consumer desire for experiential shopping to a whole new level. Around 20,000sqm (20 hectares) are dedicated to demonstrative fields and stables where visitors can learn about growing crops and breeding livestock, while a further 40 farming factories and consortiums provide educational workshops on how the food gets from field to fork.
Fico Eataly World also takes the trend for combining retail and hospitality to a much bigger platform: 45 trattorias, restaurants and street-food kiosks sit alongside a 9,000sqm farmers’ market where 150 retailers sells premium Italian products.
It certainly sounds grand, but is the concept profitable? According to the company, in its first year of business since opening in November 2017, 3m people visited the site, generating 50m euros in revenue.
Euromonitor points out that “it remains to be seen if the concept is scalable,” or whether the so-called Disneyland for food is more of a one-hit wonder.
JD.com may not have been the first of China’s major online retailers to launch a bricks-and-mortar concept – that would be Alibaba with its Hema brand – but it may be the one that is leading the way in terms of innovation, according to Euromonitor.
Since debuting the first 7Fresh at the beginning of 2018, 11 more have opened, largely in the more populous eastern and southern parts of the country.
As well as its own logistics network, delivery systems and warehouses, 7Fresh also has some nifty in-store tech to wow customers, including smart shopping carts that guide customers around the store and allow for a hands-free spree.
While this is undoubtedly a nice gimmick, what is more impactful is the use of phone apps as well as screens and scanners on the shop floor to display the nutritional information and provenance of products, backed by blockchain technology that tracks the journey of each item.
Instead of the traditional checkout, 7Fresh has been experimenting with facial recognition tech, in addition to mobile payment, cards and cash. Oh, and it also offers efficient delivery to customers’ homes within a 3km radius in under 30 minutes – no need to book slots in advance.
While the UK may not have an educational agri-food park or the same level of digital tech in retailers, it has begun experimenting with the idea of plastic-free aisles – a concept pioneered by Dutch chain Ekoplaza, which debuted the “the world’s first plastic-free supermarket” pop-up store in February 2018. A couple of months later, it closed the pop-up and rolled out the concept to all of its estate.
The organic, premium retailer partnered with Britain’s A Plastic Planet to achieve its eco mission, replacing plastic with compostable biofilm as an alternative. Initially, 700 products ditched plastic packaging, though this has since risen to more than 1,400 – around 30% of Ekoplaza’s grocery items.
A Plastic Planet has since worked with Thornton’s Budgens to replicate the project in the UK.