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Kaleidoscope - monthly musings for modern retailers

The future of food. Stores on wheels. Amazon v Instagram.

This is the third edition of Kaleidoscope, a monthly retail-focused newsletter from ThoughtWorks. Sign up here.

Nom nom: The future of food

How will we buy food in 2025? Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods has all eyes on the food and grocery industry. And it’s a big one! The food and drink value chain accounts for around 17% of global GDP. But the way we find, buy and consume food is in flux. Last year, Americans spent more on restaurants and takeout than they did in grocery stores. The stomach wars are heating up! Convenience brands are taking a bite out of food on the go, easily accessible takeout, ordering platforms and meal-kits are stealing dinner dollars, Amazon is owning middle-aisle, and is determined to get into your pantry too. Despite the heap of industry investment, grocery remains one of the most under-penetrated e-commerce categories, with only 5% of total sales happening online.

Interested in the future of food? We just released 'The Stomach Wars’, an extensive report that looks at the trends and pressures transforming an industry poised for massive change.

Convenience stores on wheels

Echoing Amazon Go, Swedish startup Wheelys is testing Moby-Mart, an automated, unstaffed store in conjunction with China’s Hefei Technical University. The mini-mart on wheels rolls roams around in beta on the streets of Shanghai. Think 7-Eleven meets driverless car - the mobile store sells convenient snacks, milk, bread and over-the-counter medicine. Customers need to download the app, then can use it to enter the store and scan items. Their account is automatically charged when they exit. The store also features an AI-powered hologram assistant that can keep note of shopping habits and provide recipe suggestions.

Amazon v Instagram

Working in Amazon’s PR department must be exhausting. This week, the now difficult-to-define behemoth launched Spark, a shoppable social feed that blends Instagram and Pinterest style features. Shoppers begin by selecting five or more categories they are interested in, and Amazon curates a feed based on their response. Shoppers tap a shopping bag icon to see which products within an image are available on Amazon.

Small orange circles reveal how shoppers can get the Bezos look, for example. 

Amazon is trying to lure publishers and influencers in by paying them to post.

Top 5 reads of the month

Intel ditches its wearable division to focus on augmented reality. Link

Nike thought it didn’t need Amazon - then the ground shifted (tiered subscription) Link

Why you should look to China for the future of retail. Link

Amazon vs Walmart: Which one will prevail? Link

How brands are using AI to close the social commerce loop Link

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