Innovations found at NRF’s Big Show

Caper's cart technology at NRF's Big Show helps push frictionless shopping but from the cart handle.

On its second day of coverage from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, editors at affiliate brand Progressive Grocer visited the NRF Innovation Lab, an interactive exhibit featuring more than 50 companies with cutting-edge technologies. Here are some trends for private label manufacturers and retailers to take note of:

Sustainability in fresh foods continues to get richer. The editors saw the company 80 Acres Farms and its indoor farms that are being developed on a commercial scale. The closed system recycles the water used to grow the plants, using 97% less water than traditional farms and delivers pesticide-free crops, mainly greens, within hours of harvest instead of days. 80 Acres Farms is also partnering with grocers to put the farms in retail and cut this travel time to zero. For Flashfood, its mobile marketplace allows grocers to sell surplus produce at discounted prices, and although still in early stages they've partnered with 430 Loblaws markets in Canada and have pilots in Meijer and Hy-Vee stores. So far, it has diverted 5 million pounds of food from landfills.

Private brands need to adapt to frictionless shopping. Two companies in the lab focused on reducing friction when shopping via cart technology. Caper, in the Startup Zone, and WalkOut aim to improve the customer experience with interfaces on the cart that can handle scanning of items and, more exciting, visually recognize what's going into shoppers' carts. This eliminates the need for going through a checkout, and the screens can also recommend like products or promotions during the shopping trip.

Faster delivery is a focus. Improving the last-mile experience is only going to build loyalty among shoppers and keep them into a private brand portfolio. At the show, Delivery Solutions, whose partners already include the likes of Wakefern Food Corp. and Giant Eagle, works with many of the large delivery partners, using its software to orchestrate which vendor gets which delivery at what time of the day so the grocer can offer same-day, and often one-hour, delivery to its customers.

Check out Progressive Grocer’s full second-day coverage of NRF here.