Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FNCE Reflections -- Wendy Baier

While attending the 2012 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) this year, I had the opportunity to attend Appetite for Technology: Food, Nutrition and Cooking in the Digital Age.  This session discussed the emerging trends in technology used in everyday grocery shopping, meal planning and nutrition. One of the most striking topics was how grocers are utilizing technology to better serve their customers.

Considering that there are 91.4 million smartphones in the United States, it makes sense that grocery store specific apps are now available. Currently 29% of moms with smartphones use a grocery related app while they are in the store.  Some common features include being able to create a shopping list and accessing coupons on your phone.  Based on your purchasing history, these coupons can be customized to what you may actually want, rather than flooding your mailbox with coupons for every item on sale.  This way, customers can stay organized and go paperless.

There are some more advanced features that make shopping much easier.  For example, after entering your shopping list, the location of each item appears next to the name.  No more aimlessly wandering through the store looking for a specialty item.  Some apps also include a recipe builder.  Say you get to the store and realize that avocados are on sale.  Right there, you can search and develop a recipe around avocados.  The app will then automatically import the rest of the ingredients into your shopping list, ensuring no return trips to the store.

Beyond convenience and organization, grocers are utilizing their loyalty card programs for public health purposes.  When there is an outbreak of a food-borne illness, officials can access the shopping histories of those affected (with permission of course) in order to identify the contaminated item.  From there, alerts can be issued to other customers that have made that same purchase.  The sophisticated use of this data can prevent the spread of disease and possibly save lives.

These technologies are still being fine-tuned but show great promise in making busy lives a little less stressful.  Keep an eye out for an app relating to your grocer and dive into the digital age!

Posted on behalf of Wendy Baier

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