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Grocery stores and supermarkets are likely to undergo significant change in coming years, but they will be defined by partnerships – between tech developers, environmentalists, retailers, and wholesalers.

The ultimate dynamic does not change, though: retailers and manufacturers are both looking to maximise sales in the retail environment.

Supermarkets have long been an innovative space. About 100 years ago, the shopping process involved a shopper ordering their groceries from a clerk behind a counter, who then collected their purchases from a back room, rang them up and sent the shopper on their way.

The idea of shoppers selecting their own purchases, loading them in a trolley and then paying at an exit cashier point, was a major innovation when it was introduced in the USA by a store called Piggly Wiggly in 1916.

There have since been further gradual innovations, such as later opening hours, wider selection, and more attractive display innovations.

However, the retail floor is likely to remain the dominant grocery shopping terrain for the foreseeable future.

It will also undergo changes, though, in line with the shifts in our society. Health concerns and legislation will likely shift the display of high-fat, -salt and -sugar (HFSS) products away from off-fixture areas and checkout lines back into the aisles, as we have seen at certain South African retailers.

There is also likely to be greater concern for sustainability and environmental impact, with a focus on minimising packaging.

The health and hygiene awareness we learned during the pandemic will also mean an increased focus on minimising touchpoints along the supply chain.

Retail-ready packaging (RRP) is likely to grow in significance, as it meets all of these requirements. RRP is a supply-chain innovation that allows products to be moved from factory floor on a single pallet either directly onto the shelf, into an aisle, or as a freestanding unit.

The RRP sleeve also allows for innovative branding to enhance visibility in the supermarket space.

“RRP carries significant sustainability benefits,” says Conor Powell, CHEP Sub-Saharan Africa’s In-store Solutions Lead. “There is no need for repacking or transfer between pallets, which means fewer resources are used and fewer platforms are required. RRP also replaces the need for most secondary packaging, which in turn, avoids waste.”

The supermarket of the future is therefore likely to have a vibrant and attractive RRP presence, with distinctive, customised display platforms showcasing products. RRP platforms also tend to be smaller and more mobile, making for a modular, dynamic space that will change with every visit.

“RRP will be a feature of the supermarket of the future,” says Powell. “There are health and sustainability benefits, but also business advantages. From our European experience and confirmed by local trials done in South Africa, we have seen retail customers cut replenishment time by 75-80% and boosted off promotion sales up to 8% by using RRP.”

A distinctive feature of future retail spaces will be a partnership between manufacturers and retailers.

“Manufacturers will become more involved in designing and commissioning their own retail displays – and these will be the same supply-chain platforms that bring their goods to market. It’s a dynamic, sustainable solution, that perfectly aligns with the CHEP vision for a circular economy built on share-and-reuse principles,” says Powell.

CHEP’s sustainability commitment was given greater impetus recently through a recent partnership with Food and Trees for Africa, which will see a tree planted for every 50 RRP pallets that make their way into the retail last mile.

“The future is indeed about collaboration,” agrees CHEP’s Marietjie Brown, Sustainability and Government Affairs Lead for IMETA (India, Middle East, Turkey and Africa) region. “In the future, we will need to partner to understand the impacts of our businesses on others, and to find solutions that meet the needs of all stakeholders – especially the environment, which sustains us all.”

CHEP showcased its vision of the aisle of the future at the recently held SAPICS 2022 Conference & Exhibition, the leading event in Africa for Supply Chain Management, with their exhibition stand aptly themed “The grocery aisle of the future”. To learn more about CHEP’s Retail Ready Packaging (RRP) Solution, click here.

About CHEP

CHEP helps move more goods to more people, in more places than any other organisation on earth. Its pallets, crates and containers form the invisible backbone of the global supply chain and the world’s biggest brands trust CHEP to help them transport their goods more efficiently, sustainably and safely. As pioneers of the sharing economy, CHEP created one of the world's most sustainable logistics businesses through the share and reuse of its platforms under a model known as ‘pooling’. CHEP’s ambition is to create a positive impact on the planet and society, pioneering regenerative supply chains. CHEP primarily serves the fast-moving consumer goods (e.g., dry food, grocery, and health and personal care), fresh produce, beverage, retail, and general manufacturing industries. CHEP employs approximately 11,500 people and believes in the power of collective intelligence through diversity, inclusion, and teamwork. CHEP owns approximately 345 million pallets, crates, and containers through a network of more than 750 service centres, supporting more than 500,000 customer touch-points for global brands such as Procter & Gamble, Sysco and Nestlé. CHEP is part of the Brambles Group and operates in approximately 60 countries with its largest operations in North America and Western Europe. For more information on CHEP, visit

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