The future of food? Integrated apps, more digital purchasing options

Technology is changing the way we shop for — and prepare — our food (WTOP's Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON The future of food is here — and it looks a lot like a handheld device.

Technology is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the way consumers think about, shop for, and prepare food. Recipe videos are social media sensations, groceries are delivered on demand, and meal kits that can be customized — a $5 billion business — take the worry out of what to cook for dinner.

A recent study by the Food Marketing Institute predicts that online grocery sales will capture 20 percent of the market by 2025, representing $100 billion in annual consumer sales. Based on store volume, that’s the equivalent of 3,900 grocery stores.

A shopper scans an Amazon Go app on a cellphone while entering an Amazon Go store, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. The artificial intelligence-powered store, which opened to the public on Monday, allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. The online retail giant can tell what people have purchased and automatically charges their Amazon account. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A shopper scans an Amazon Go app on a cellphone while entering an Amazon Go store, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. The artificial intelligence-powered store, which opened to the public on Monday, allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. The online retail giant can tell what people have purchased and automatically charges their Amazon account. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (AP/Elaine Thompson)
Workers as seen from a sidewalk window as they assemble sandwiches in an Amazon Go store Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. More than a year after it introduced the concept, Amazon opened its artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go store in downtown Seattle on Monday. The store on the bottom floor of the company's Seattle headquarters allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Workers as seen from a sidewalk window as they assemble sandwiches in an Amazon Go store Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. More than a year after it introduced the concept, Amazon opened its artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go store in downtown Seattle on Monday. The store on the bottom floor of the company’s Seattle headquarters allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (AP/Elaine Thompson)
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS OFAPRIL 19-20 ** A basket of produce at Freshdirect, an online grocery delivery service, is prepared for distribution at the company's warehouse in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York Thursday, April 10, 2003. Freshdirect, which is exceeding sales and profit goals, is part of a new wave of retooled online grocery businesses that are revitalizing the sector. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)
A basket of produce at FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery service, is prepared for distribution at the company’s warehouse in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York Thursday, April 10, 2003. FreshDirect, which is exceeding sales and profit goals, is part of a new wave of retooled online grocery businesses that are revitalizing the sector. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/DIANE BONDAREFF)
Amazon Fresh delivery man Tim Wilkie prepares a grocery order for delivery to a residence on Mercer Island, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007. Amazon Fresh is a new grocery delivery service being tested by Amazon.com in a handful of Seattle neighborhoods including Mercer Island. Amazon.com has deployed a fleet of 12 grocery delivery trucks. Customers can also pick up fresh grocery orders at a small number of locations in the area. (AP Photo/Joe Nicholson)
Amazon Fresh delivery man Tim Wilkie prepares a grocery order for delivery to a residence on Mercer Island, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007. Amazon Fresh is a new grocery delivery service being tested by Amazon.com in a handful of Seattle neighborhoods including Mercer Island. Amazon.com has deployed a fleet of 12 grocery delivery trucks. Customers can also pick up fresh grocery orders at a small number of locations in the area. (AP Photo/Joe Nicholson) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Joe Nicholson)
FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2014 file photo, an example of a home delivered meal from Blue Apron seen in Concord, N.H. Despite the old saying, you can buy happiness, especially if you spend it to save yourself time, new research finds.Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in four countries and found that people who doled out cash to save them time, housekeeping, grocery delivery services, taxis, were happier than those who don’t.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead, File)
Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in four countries and found that people who doled out cash to save them time, housekeeping, grocery delivery services, taxis, were happier than those who don’t. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead, File) (AP/Matthew Mead)
Customer Paul Fan shops at an Amazon Go store, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. The store on the bottom floor of the company's Seattle headquarters allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. The online retail giant can tell what people have purchased and automatically charges their Amazon account. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Customer Paul Fan shops at an Amazon Go store, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. The store on the bottom floor of the company’s Seattle headquarters allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. The online retail giant can tell what people have purchased and automatically charges their Amazon account. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (AP/Elaine Thompson)
In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, a thermometer checks the temperature of an incoming shipment of gluten-free soul food from Grease Box at the Good Eggs warehouse in San Francisco. New online services are letting consumers buy fruits, vegetables, meats and artisan foods directly from local farmers and producers. Buyers can have their orders delivered or retrieve them at local pickup spots. These virtual farmers markets are changing the way people buy groceries and creating new markets for small farmers, ranchers, bakers and other food makers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, a thermometer checks the temperature of an incoming shipment of gluten-free soul food from Grease Box at the Good Eggs warehouse in San Francisco. New online services are letting consumers buy fruits, vegetables, meats and artisan foods directly from local farmers and producers. Buyers can have their orders delivered or retrieve them at local pickup spots. These virtual farmers markets are changing the way people buy groceries and creating new markets for small farmers, ranchers, bakers and other food makers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) (AP/Eric Risberg)
In this Dec. 18, 2013 photo, Good Eggs community dispatcher Vanessa Casey, holds an order to be picked up by a Financial District customer in San Francisco. New online services are letting consumers buy fruits, vegetables, meats and artisan foods directly from local farmers and producers. Buyers can have their orders delivered or retrieve them at local pickup spots. These virtual farmers markets are changing the way people buy groceries and creating new markets for small farmers, ranchers, bakers and other food makers. San Francisco-based Good Eggs has built a fast-growing business connecting foodies and farmers in Northern California. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Dec. 18, 2013 photo, Good Eggs community dispatcher Vanessa Casey, holds an order to be picked up by a Financial District customer in San Francisco. New online services are letting consumers buy fruits, vegetables, meats and artisan foods directly from local farmers and producers. Buyers can have their orders delivered or retrieve them at local pickup spots. These virtual farmers markets are changing the way people buy groceries and creating new markets for small farmers, ranchers, bakers and other food makers. San Francisco-based Good Eggs has built a fast-growing business connecting foodies and farmers in Northern California. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) (AP/Eric Risberg)
This Tuesday, May 30, 2017, photo shows a 24-hour grocery pickup location at a Walmart in Oklahoma City. Amazon’s planned $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods signals a massive bet that people will opt more for the convenience of online orders and delivery or in-store pickup, putting even more pressure on the already highly competitive industry. Walmart, Kroger and others were already stepping up their efforts in delivery and in-store pickup of online orders. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
This Tuesday, May 30, 2017, photo shows a 24-hour grocery pickup location at a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma City. Amazon’s planned $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods signals a massive bet that people will opt more for the convenience of online orders and delivery or in-store pickup, putting even more pressure on the already highly competitive industry. Wal-Mart, Kroger and others were already stepping up their efforts in delivery and in-store pickup of online orders. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
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A shopper scans an Amazon Go app on a cellphone while entering an Amazon Go store, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. The artificial intelligence-powered store, which opened to the public on Monday, allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. The online retail giant can tell what people have purchased and automatically charges their Amazon account. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Workers as seen from a sidewalk window as they assemble sandwiches in an Amazon Go store Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. More than a year after it introduced the concept, Amazon opened its artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go store in downtown Seattle on Monday. The store on the bottom floor of the company's Seattle headquarters allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS OFAPRIL 19-20 ** A basket of produce at Freshdirect, an online grocery delivery service, is prepared for distribution at the company's warehouse in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York Thursday, April 10, 2003. Freshdirect, which is exceeding sales and profit goals, is part of a new wave of retooled online grocery businesses that are revitalizing the sector. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)
Amazon Fresh delivery man Tim Wilkie prepares a grocery order for delivery to a residence on Mercer Island, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007. Amazon Fresh is a new grocery delivery service being tested by Amazon.com in a handful of Seattle neighborhoods including Mercer Island. Amazon.com has deployed a fleet of 12 grocery delivery trucks. Customers can also pick up fresh grocery orders at a small number of locations in the area. (AP Photo/Joe Nicholson)
FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2014 file photo, an example of a home delivered meal from Blue Apron seen in Concord, N.H. Despite the old saying, you can buy happiness, especially if you spend it to save yourself time, new research finds.Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in four countries and found that people who doled out cash to save them time, housekeeping, grocery delivery services, taxis, were happier than those who don’t.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead, File)
Customer Paul Fan shops at an Amazon Go store, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Seattle. The store on the bottom floor of the company's Seattle headquarters allows shoppers to scan their smartphone with the Amazon Go app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want and leave. The online retail giant can tell what people have purchased and automatically charges their Amazon account. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, a thermometer checks the temperature of an incoming shipment of gluten-free soul food from Grease Box at the Good Eggs warehouse in San Francisco. New online services are letting consumers buy fruits, vegetables, meats and artisan foods directly from local farmers and producers. Buyers can have their orders delivered or retrieve them at local pickup spots. These virtual farmers markets are changing the way people buy groceries and creating new markets for small farmers, ranchers, bakers and other food makers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Dec. 18, 2013 photo, Good Eggs community dispatcher Vanessa Casey, holds an order to be picked up by a Financial District customer in San Francisco. New online services are letting consumers buy fruits, vegetables, meats and artisan foods directly from local farmers and producers. Buyers can have their orders delivered or retrieve them at local pickup spots. These virtual farmers markets are changing the way people buy groceries and creating new markets for small farmers, ranchers, bakers and other food makers. San Francisco-based Good Eggs has built a fast-growing business connecting foodies and farmers in Northern California. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
This Tuesday, May 30, 2017, photo shows a 24-hour grocery pickup location at a Walmart in Oklahoma City. Amazon’s planned $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods signals a massive bet that people will opt more for the convenience of online orders and delivery or in-store pickup, putting even more pressure on the already highly competitive industry. Walmart, Kroger and others were already stepping up their efforts in delivery and in-store pickup of online orders. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

John Karolefski, a grocery industry analyst and editor of the website Grocery Stories, said the expected gain is all due to growing demand from millennials.

“They’re the big grocery buyers now because they’re starting families, but they don’t like shopping in supermarkets that much. So, grocers are trying to cater to them by offering various digital innovations,” Karolefski said.

Not all of these innovations are limited to online shopping. Retailers are experimenting with time-saving digital in-store experiences, as well.

Kroger is rolling out its Scan, Bag, Go service to 400 stores in 2018. The program allows customers to scan the bar code of the items they place in their cart as they shop the store and then pay the total at a self-checkout terminal.

Amazon opened its Amazon Go concept to the public on Jan. 22. The 1,800-square-foot retail shop, located at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, is cash- and cashier-free.

Customers scan an app as they enter the store and shop using a virtual cart. Items pulled off the shelf are added to their cart, and the final bill is charged to their Amazon account.

“The eyes of the industry, of course, are on this one store because Amazon bought Whole Foods. If the new technology is successful in this one test store, it might be implemented in stores throughout the country,” Karolefski said.

“Now, the whole thing is trying to make shopping more attractive, faster, easier.”

Whether groceries are loaded into a virtual cart in-store or online, Joshua Sigel wants to help consumers once the food makes its way to the kitchen. The chief operating officer of the app Innit, which launched in 2017, said the way people think about food these days is fragmented.

“You may be using a recipe app or going online to search for a meal, and that happens in one space. We buy groceries through different online providers or through brick-and-mortar retail grocery stores in a different way. We then prepare food, and maybe we’re searching for different videos and Googling things,” Sigel said.

Innit aims to connect it all.

The free-to-download app helps users plan out their meals from a library of recipes and create shopping lists based on the menu. It also offers step-by-step guidance, including hands-free commands from Google Assistant and how-to videos, to bring the dishes to fruition. It even coordinates with connected appliances to control cooking temperatures and time.

“We’re going to see a big change in the kitchen over the coming years as connectivity becomes more pervasive, and it’s going to really enable individuals to enjoy the experience of cooking,” Sigel said, adding that Innit has plans to introduce grocery services and customizable meal kit options in the near future.

“This is really a platform to support eating,” he said.


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