Skip to main content

Creating a connected food movement for retailers and shoppers


The Internet of Everything (IoE) has moved from vision to reality in retail and food industries, creating a “Connected Food” movement that is transforming everything from the way consumers shop, to how products are sold and how retailers can run their businesses.

Leading retailers around the globe are embracing IoE technologies to connect people, processes, data and things along every step of food and retail supply chains. This increased connectivity, coupled with near real-time data analytics enables retailers to better monitor food quality, improve operational efficiency, and gain insights into consumer behaviors that can help them increase sales.

Consumers increasingly want transparency when it comes to their food, including peace of mind about how their food was grown, how it was treated during the production process and how it arrived on the shelf. Research shows that 74 percent of consumers are willing to dig deeper and seek more data about how food products are grown, processed and manufactured.

By deploying IoE technologies, retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands can give consumers this level of detail into their food’s journey. Top CPGs have already implemented IoE technologies that let consumers trace the chain of production for all aspects of their food. For example, some grocers allow shoppers to scan product barcodes or QR codes with their mobile app.

Others are experimenting with in-store sensors that allow a consumer to point to or tap a food package on the shelf, causing additional product information to appear on a digital display nearby, telling the consumer more about where the ingredients come from or providing special offers.

Barilla is a recent example of how IoE can better educate consumers on the journey of their food and, in turn, create a stronger brand connection from enhanced transparency. Barilla worked with technology providers, non-governmental organizations and supply chain experts to implement a fully integrated tracking system that allows consumers to trace the ingredients of selected pastas and sauces through each step of the production process from where the raw ingredients were grown, to how they were processed, packaged and shipped to the store.

Using IoE technologies and real-time data analytics, Barilla was able to break down information silos among its supply chain partners and create a “Digital ID” for each production batch of pasta and sauce. Consumers in the store can use their smartphones to scan a QR code on the back of specially-marked packages to access a website that traces the journey of that specific batch.

For example, consumers can follow the pasta dough from the durum wheat field to learn where and how it was cultivated and harvested, through the production process to see how it was made into pasta, to the packaging, labeling and transportation of the finished product. The IoE-powered platform helps combat counterfeiting in the food chain and gives consumers a more detailed understanding of the treatment of the food they are purchasing.

Retailers have a unique opportunity to create a connected environment with IoE-led technologies and data analytics to optimize efficiency in grocery stores. For example, grocers seeking to minimize waste and avoid spoilage are beginning to use sensors, video analytics and other IoE technologies to monitor the freshness of produce. Using video analytics (to judge the appearance of produce), gas sensors (to detect gases emitted from aging produce), and pocket size spectrometers like the SCiO (which can instantly determine food freshness from chemical composition), grocers can avoid food spoilage and safety issues such as costly recalls. They can even craft dynamic pricing strategies and adaptive promotional campaigns to maximize profit based on ripening trends and changing demand forecasts.

IoE technologies and processes can also help retailers increase sales and gain a competitive edge by better understanding consumers’ behaviors and preferences. Retailers and CPG brands are using real-time data and analytics collected in stores to gain deep insights into shopper behavior, brand reception, and merchandising effectiveness. For example, retailers are using data from RFID tags, shelf sensors and video to monitor product stock and alert staff members when stock is getting low – before the shelf becomes empty. According to analysis from Cisco Consulting Services, real-time monitoring of stock levels can contribute $70 million in additional revenue for a $20 billion retailer.

By connecting people, processes, data and “things”, the Internet of Everything provides retailers the benefit of real-time insights into food supply chains and store operations. This new direction into connected food is transforming consumers’ lives by giving them the information they want to know when they are making purchasing decisions. It gives consumers a greater connection to their food, improves food safety and increases customer satisfaction in their store experience. Additionally, the benefits provided by implementing these digital technologies and processes can result in a $300 million annual profit improvement for a $20 billion retailer.

With many retailers searching new for ways to succeed in an increasingly competitive landscape, the Internet of Everything offers a compelling solution.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds