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

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.

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.

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.