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Denise Leathers
Denise Leathers
Denise Leathers

Found among the detritus were some interesting findings on the state of innovation.

As we put the finishing touches on our final issue of 2022, I decided to get a head start on my New Year’s resolution to finally organize my workspace. (Though, in my defense, research suggests that a messy desk is a sign of creativity. Just sayin.) As I started digging through the pile of reports and studies that have accumulated in the past few years — I mean months, definitely months — I came across a few that touch on innovation, the subject of this month’s cover story. 


A new “Aspirational Compass” study by Portland, Ore.-based behavioral research firm InsightsNow looked at the gap between what consumers desire and what they actually purchase when in stores. According to the company, the whitespace between them is where retailers and manufacturers will find opportunities for product innovation. The study revealed that one of the largest gaps is in the area of sustainability, with 42% of shoppers aspiring to buy sustainably sourced products but only 5% actually able to do so. Other areas where reality fell short of the mark were price/value (no surprise given runaway inflation) and nutrition, particularly high protein foods.

Another interesting take on innovation is found in the introduction to Kantar’s annual PoweRanking report, which examines how retailers and manufacturers can best innovate and serve consumers. In a summary of “retail realities,” researchers wrote, “It is less about the aspiration of innovation, for both products and supply chain, and more about the reality of innovation, AI, and supply chain optimization to deal with labor shortages, better ways to communicate with shoppers and fast-changing needs.” In other words, much of the innovation we’re seeing now is reactive rather than proactive, aimed at solving today’s problems rather than preventing tomorrow’s.

That said, top innovators like Kroger (consumers ranked it the fifth most innovative supermarket) never stop looking forward. The company recently opened its “store of the future” in Cincinnati, which offers customers several high-tech ways to check out. Those who use its new KroGO carts with built-in scales and scanners can pay at the cart and skip the checkout line altogether.

Cashierless checkout is just one of many features in the “smart supermarket” of tomorrow described in a recent webinar by FMI and Oliver Wyman on the digital future of the supermarket. A summary of the presentation includes a drawing of what grocery stores might look like in 2030. If you get a chance to check it out, you’ll be shocked by the differences — most non-perishables in the back room, service counters and food courts in the center, electronic shelf labels, smart merchandising solutions, etc. The space is completely transformed, yet it makes perfect sense.


Nominations for our inaugural FoRWARD Awards honoring “Frozen & Refrigerated Women Achieving Remarkable Distinction” close Dec. 15. So if you know someone who’s made a valuable contribution to her company, shoot me an e-mail and, in up to 200 words, let me know why. We’ll announce the winners in our January-February issue.

Until then, happy holidays to all of our readers, and we look forward to sharing more stories in the new year!

Denise Leathers

Denise Leathers

Denise is the Editorial Director for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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