School children talk about the supermarket of the future

Tapping into the innocence of year 5 and 6 international school children, the inventiveness of teenagers as well as the insight of seasoned professionals, we take a leap into the future, imagining what supermarkets will look like, how they will function and what our relationship to them will be in 50 years’ time. Unmanned trolleys? Check. Underground tunnel-enabled distribution? Check. Drone deliveries? Colour-coded smart shelves? Check. Hover boards? Of course.

Ameya, 9 years old

The Everything shop is a supermarket that sells everything from around the world. You can also buy vehicles like a Ferrari, Lamborghini and F1 race car merchandise. Here’s how it works. You walk to the supermarket, take your key card and scan your thumb on the card, so only you can enter. Then you type your name and unique code at the door. Then you tell the guard your name. After this, he will get your hover trolley, remote control and your private delivery drone. You start it up, control it to go to the section you want it to go to. Then you command it to collect the item you need and the on-board CCTV camera will find it. The built-in robot arms will put it in the trolley. Eventually, when you’ve finished, the 6-armed robot cashier will scan your shopping and, upon leaving the store, you call your delivery drone, give it your shopping and it will fly it back to your house, put your shopping in the kitchen, and then fly back to the store to recharge, so that when you come back it will be ready for you.

My name is Ameya Chaudhari. I’m 9 years old and I was born in India. I have travelled a lot around the globe.

Rikhil, 9 years old

My future supermarket would have impenetrable glass (for protection), security cameras (also for protection), a spa, a playing area (for the kids), a lounge and a 100-foot building. The supermarket of the future should stock and sell the best toys in the world, the most fabulous clothes in the world, the latest and best electronics in the world as well as the freshest fruit and vegetables. It’d also have an in-house garden, a reproducing bin (reuses trash to create new goods also to be sold in the supermarket), robot guides (if you do not know where things are) and hover carts.

My name is Rikhil and I am nine years old and I live in Brussels but I originally come from India. I moved here to Brussels with my mother and father.

Shaariq, 9 years old

The supermarket of the future is big and will have an antenna so that you can use your phone to find where things are and there will be an app called Cro that contains a map of the supermarket. The supermarket should sell chocolate, chips etc. This will be on the right hand side when you walk in, on the last rack. There will be ready meals, junk, vegetables, fruits, school uniform, office clothes, normal dress and toys etc… If you bring a trolley from home, you need to put it in luggage transport. This takes it to the counter where you will be given your hover trolley. Once you have finished your shopping, you can put your goods in your own trolley. The supermarkets should be located all over the world because all the countries should be able to taste other countries’ foods because everything will be the same. Supermarkets in the future should have hover trolleys. The trolley should have a car seat at the back and a handle bar to turn. It should also have a vacuum powered ball which sucks the thing you want. You should write on the tab what you want to buy. To drive it, you need to unlock it and there will be a password to write when you have swiped up. There will be hands in the trolley that will come out and pick up all the things you want.

Hello I am Shaariq, I am nine years old and was born in Chennai, India. I moved to Brussels five months ago.

Ishika, 10 years old

My guess is that most of the products would be sent by hole or pipe transportation, or some sort of telekinesis box thing in which you put the product and it sends it to the pipes. There will be things called Superpoints (Supermarket points) on the streets so that you can choose what you need, put cash, coins or use a credit or debit card. They will also have a board on their side saying either Star Light, Under the Sea or Country Style. These represent the three types of holders. The three types of holders are where the food and other items are kept. Star Light is the slang word for holders in space. Under the Sea is for holders in the sea and Country Style is for holders in the countryside. There are pipes underground which get the product using the telekinesis box. They send the food to the Superpoints or Homepoints which are Superpoints you can install at home. Each supermarket will have their own link of pipes. If you’re a person who likes to take food off the shelves yourself, you can go to shopping corners which are just like regular supermarkets. They have glide trolleys which hover above the ground because they’re much smoother. They have separate sections including workshops, teaching you cooking, art or plumbing, etc…

My name is Ishika Sharma. I am a girl. My birthday is on the 31st March. I am 10. I was born and am from India. I live in Belgium and go to BISB.

Abhiram, 11 years old

This trolley will make it easier to go around the place when you go to the super market. So what you do is, you go in, then you press what you want to buy. Type in the recipe, like Spaghetti Bolognese and it will show you all the ingredients you need which will automatically be delivered to you. Or if you like to wander around the supermarket slowly to get your stuff, we have you covered with a brand new super trolley. If you want to take it you must put your credit card details in. When you have finished, the trolley teleports your shopping to your house and takes the money from your credit card. This way, you don’t have to carry your shopping home.

My name is Abhiram Raddy. I was born on the 9th July 2005. I live in Brussels and go to BISB.

Darius, 10 years old

I think that a supermarket of the future would look as if it was in the film ‘Tron’. It would look as if it were a thousand times bigger than the Empire State Building. Anyway, I think you would shop like this. You would not have to go; the drone would do it for you. The drone would have a camera attached so that you can select what you want to buy. Once you have selected all your stuff, the drone would go to the cashier. You will pay the online cashier (I don’t think cashiers will exist anymore…) with your credit card. The drone would come back with all of your fresh produce. So that is how I imagine it… but in 20 years’ time. So what would this become in 50 years? The supermarket of the future will include smart shelves that will display products customized to every shopper based on an embedded food ID chip. So basically the drones will stop purchasing stuff, people would build a train station in the supermarket, lighting would improve, buildings will get taller and shops will sell more complex products such as cars, helicopters and aircrafts.

Hello! My name is Darius Butkevicius, but my friends call me Dada. I lived in Luxembourg for six months, then moved to Geneva for two years, then moved to Brussels, where I am now. I am 10 years old.

Ishita, 10 years old

The supermarket will not have humans, but robots selling goods. The robots will take our shopping lists and there will be a box in which our required shopping will come out; everything will be automated. This is what I call ‘the 1-minute shopping experience…’. Inside the box there will be several shelves with different compartments in it for food, fruits, clothes, household and other items. When the shopping list is sent in, some small robots will pick up the goods and drop them in the pipe, which will then fall inside your trolley. The supermarket will be selling fresh produce and imported goods like fruits, vegetables and household goods. There will also be ready-to-eat food and it will be of the best quality. Compost and recycling bins will be available so that the surroundings will not be polluted. There will even be workshops for customers to be shown how things work. The supermarkets will be located in key positions so people can get all their shopping in one place.

My name is Ishita Mohanta and I was born in Hyderabad, India on the 1st of November 2006.

Min-Hyeok, 9 years old

I think the supermarket of the future will look like a very large, normal house; I would like my supermarket to be coloured blue. I think the supermarket of the future should sell everything so that you don’t need to go to lots of shops selling an amazing variety of products. So, if you want a certain type of honey, my shop will stock it. In the future, I think trolleys will move by themselves and people will sit on them. The supermarket will be so big that you won’t have the energy to walk around it. And they should be located in every country because they will sell everything people around the world would need.

I am Min-Hyeok and I am nine years old. I come from South Korea and have lived in Brussels for three years.

Artem, 10 years old

How I imagine a future supermarket to be? I think that the whole building should be made out of bulletproof glass (depending where it is located) and should be very large. It could have five floors or more. Around the supermarket there would be a road and every five meters there would be a petrol station type building. Its’ not a normal petrol station but it would have shelves with food. Every stop would have different types of food, for example one stop could have meat whereas another could have vegetables. It would be much easier; you just sit in your car or your future vehicle, stop, take your hand out of the window and grab what you want and continue. I think the future supermarket should sell everything including vehicles, furniture, shoes, clothes, food and toys. I imagine that a future supermarket should have, most importantly, workshops. Because if someone buys something, what are they going to do if they don’t know how to cook it and there are no instructions on the back? They have to ask someone. So here’s where the workshop comes in. They can just ask the chef running the workshop and that person will teach them how to cook the product that they want to buy. Also, if the person doesn’t know what the product tastes like they can also try it at the workshop.

Hello my name is Artem Terterov and I am 10 years old. I was born on 30th March 2006 in Oxford and after a year I moved to Brussels.

Luca, 10 years old

Instead of normal shelves, there will be closed ones, and you will pay before you shop – they will give you a ticket. The fruit will not be stored, but there will be an orchard where a gardener will pick your fresh fruit for you. For mobility, there will be hover boards which will cost 10 euros per hour. The different food will be stored underground and transported in elevators and conveyor belt shelves. On each shelf there will be a little dispenser so you can try different types of food. There will be one row of small tasting points which will sell specific types of food.

Hello my name is Luca Armando Maccanico. I was born on 20th December 2005 in Dublin. For my dad’s work we had to continuously move around Europe, but now I live here in Brussels with my brother and all my family.

Carole, 16

What I see happening in the future is the development of different supermarkets for different niche groups. These supermarkets already somewhat exist, but they’re going to be taken to extremes. For example, a pink store for the Lolita girls and the J-pop fans, or a white store, where only generic brands will be on sale, a green one with nothing but local and organic fare, and so on. The clerks won’t be wearing uniforms like they’re doing now, but they’ll wear special outfits that make them fit into their surroundings. On the other hand, I also see a hypermodern market. A store where everything is automatic, that still has themed aisles for dairy and meat and the likes, but with buttons on the wall instead of racks with products. If you want something you can get it at the mere push of a button. The item you want will then pop out. Also, a motorised shopping cart will follow you around. I don’t like the fact that everything is becoming more and more automatic, though. I miss talking to the shop clerk. Now you either have self scan machines, or a cashier that barely says hello. All these innovations just show that it’s about nothing more than money. When I go to the farmer’s market with my mom it’s different. The farmers know your name, you know theirs, and they can tell you which produce is of good quality during that particular season. I hope these kinds of places will become more popular. More than just efficient, shopping should be fun.

Carole Kesteloot (2000) is an audio-visual arts student at Sint-Lukas Brussels. He spare time is spent making donuts with the machine her friends got her for her birthday.

Sean, 22

In any case, I don’t see the concept of huge shopping malls having any future success. The era of shopping centres is over. They’re simply too bombastic. While they succeed in centralising every possible service in one sole building, they’re in no way cosy or convivial. Future shopping will take into account the human aspect of things I believe. I’m quite attached to the small cornershop in my village because – and I’m convinced that this is a fact – people still want, and need, a connection with their grocer. Which is something that will also be reflected in the products on offer, which will have a penchant towards local and sustainable agriculture. No more apples from New Zealand, no more palm oil, no more processed crap. More transparency throughout the production and distribution chain immediately equals more quality, less carbon emissions and no assembly lines. Although, on the other hand, we probably won’t shy away from other innovations. Marketers will continue to strive to personalise shopping experiences, through sound, light and even smell. The supermarket of the future is going to be a combination of both technical modernisation and a return towards authenticity.

Sean Thomas (1994) is a geography student at the University of Namur. He’s also known to play DJ sets from time to time.

Erwin, 43

When talking about the future of supermarkets, I can only focus on those in an urban environment, because I believe that distribution in rural places will mostly – save for some accent shifts – stay the same. I’m quite sure that, in cities, supermarkets will take a step back – a trend that’s already very alive today – towards a more authentic way of grocery shopping. People want an experience when they go shopping, whether that means buying artisanal bread at that one specific quaint bakery or having the clerk know your first name. These things will also bring about a reappearance of serviceability. Every shop should have its own unique identity, and its own particular specialty. Another crucial aspect of future commerce will no doubt be geographical implementation. Stores that seamlessly blend into their environment, that adapt themselves to the neighbourhood they’re in. The prevalence of social media will eliminate the need for loud neon signs that scream, “hey, we’re here”. It’s, once again, a matter of authenticity. Taking into account the location you settle in gives you more credibility. It’s safe to say that I’m pretty optimistic when thinking about how supermarkets will evolve, and that current trends are moving the future in the right direction.

Erwin De Muer (1973) is active as a designer at Base design. He has worked in various fields of design ranging from furniture, exhibitions, signage, interior and spatial design, and established his own design studio in Brussels five years ago.

Quentin, 28

I see a real future in the business model of cooperative supermarkets. We’re creating one right now in Schaerbeek, and what we notice is that there’s a real need and demand. People want to reclaim the food supply, and wish to see more transparency throughout the consumption chain. The supermarket of the future encapsulates an entire linked reality that brings together distribution, logistics, production and even health in a way that is socio-economically responsible. It is above all linked to products that respond to an ideal, meaning those that are respectful to mankind as well as to the environment, and that are as much as possible brought to the stores via short circuits. Supermarkets will also play a large role in educating the public, which will happen through in-house workshops and classes, turning the store into a place to exchange knowledge. I predict that supermarkets will also take into account the neighbourhoods they settle in, which will be reflected in the offer. The inhabitants of a commune like Uccle don’t have the same needs and wishes as those in Laeken. I’m convinced that more small initiatives that offer and show alternative ways of consumption will pop up over the next half century.

Quentin Crespel (1988) is a co-founder of Bees Coop, a cooperative supermarket in Schaerbeek that will see the light of day later this year. A real foodie, he studied to be a hotelier and a restaurateur before entering the retail business.