The Modern Shopper brings together the best minds and insights of a diverse group of food retailers and other industry experts to discuss their strategic initiatives and their top of mind challenges. Our focus is around health and sustainability, e-commerce and retail innovation. This series aligns with Spoon Guru’s core mission to help retailers discover a seamless, personalized and accurate product discovery experience for shoppers based on their dietary and lifestyle needs and is hosted by Phil Lempert. In this season of Modern Shopper industry experts share their insights on the changing retail landscape.
YFood brings together a global community of companies and people looking to shape the future of food. By helping their members learn, discover and connect around food industry trends, they aim to help develop impactful solutions to solve global food issues in a commercial, replicable and scalable manner. Nadia El Hadery, YFood’s founder and CEO, has gained some unique insights into food tech over the years, and she sat down with Phil Lempert to chat about the current and future evolution of grocery, and the key fundamentals of relevant customer experiences.
“We’re seeing young innovators coming up with solutions and new technologies that are sharing all this type of information or even nudging me to make the right decision at the point of consumption – what we now need is the big industry players to come forward and really start to partner with these technologies and innovations.“
This interview runs for 14 minutes.
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Phil Lempert: Today’s guest is Nadia El Hadery, the founder and CEO of YFood. YFood is on a mission to drive innovation in the food industry, using tech and trends to solve global food issues that affect us all. Food is one of the most important and biggest economies in the world, and technology its biggest enabler and driver for scalable global and positive impact. The YFood team is the world’s largest celebration, showcase, collaboration and community of the companies and trends that are transforming the food ecosystem using technology. Nadia, welcome to The Modern Shopper.
Nadia El Hadery: Hi Phil, thanks so much for having me here today.
Phil Lempert: So first up, describe to me what YFood is all about and how it works.
Nadia El Hadery: Yeah. So we’re basically a club that helps our members learn, discover and connect around all the trends that are coming up within the food industry. So we’ve got everyone in our club from autonomous stores and autonomous store technologies all the way through to some of the leading industry players on a global and national scale.
Phil Lempert: So the retail industry right now is experiencing a period of unprecedented change. Certainly part of it has to do with the pandemic, but part of it has to do with an old ageing infrastructure. New technologies, global economic shifts, and changing consumer preferences are driving retailers to find new ways to reach their shoppers. Successful retailers need to understand how these forces are shaping the future of retail in order to succeed in today’s marketplace. In this season of Modern Shopper industry experts share their insights on the changing retail landscape. So, Nadia, we know that grocery is evolving, but why is it not evolving fast enough? Why are retailers still behind on the key fundamentals of relevant customer experiences? You know, as one example, why aren’t retailers doing more in catering to their shoppers’ health needs or even at the very basic level, their dietary requirements?
Nadia El Hadery: I think that’s a really good question – why aren’t they? And I think the answer is quite complicated. I think the thing that I would look at more is that we know that they can, right? So we know that if we want them to respond to something, or they have to respond to something , they can – and Covid has 100% shown that. Right? They’ve gone from one sort of a business model to switching on major e-commerce channels, click and collect channels, you know, micro fulfilment centres, you know, managing queues within the supermarket completely, like automated checkout systems. So when we need them to change, they fundamentally can. So I guess is the question better put – why isn’t health high enough up the agenda and how do we get it higher up on the agenda? Because ultimately we’re in a global crisis when it comes to health. Obesity related disease is up through the roof. Our health care bills are insane and health should fundamentally be on the agenda.
Phil Lempert: So I’ve got to put you on the spot here. Are these health campaigns from retailers just a marketing tagline? Do retailers actually care about making their shoppers healthier?
Nadia El Hadery: Yeah. I mean, I think, honestly, I think in the U.S., we’re seeing a lot more movement from the U.S. retailers to at least try and align themselves with health campaigns or agendas. In the U.K., we’re still super far behind on all of this stuff, and we’re not even doing it as a marketing gimmick. It’s barely something that’s even being recognized at the moment. And I think there’s a lot more work and opportunity for these big organisations to take responsibility for what we’re eating. I think there is an opportunity for the entire food and drink industry to take some form of responsibility for what we’re eating. And I think it fundamentally starts with information and transparency and understanding of what we’re eating and the impact that that has on me personally and how we might go about trying to make better decisions and how we might be able to influence that. And of course, technology and the technologies that are now currently available to support big industry players to make these types of moves in the way they’re communicating their food messages is available. So yeah, I would like to see and would expect to see a lot more happening within this space over the next few years.
Phil Lempert: So how is YFood nudging them to do that?
Nadia El Hadery: It’s such a good question because of… what we do is yeah, we do. We share the commercial value of doing this stuff. We look at what the consumer trends are and how that might be really sort of driving that. But we also look at what the responsibility for the industry is. And when you start to and then we start to show them what the technologies and innovations that enable big organisations to actually make this change, to show that actually there are solutions out there. And when you show all of those sorts of four areas and connect big organisations with those companies to make that happen, then we can really start to drive change. If that makes sense.
Phil Lempert: So now you’re nudging them. But how do you see retailers adapting to this paradigm shift in consumer expectations? What’s the next big catalyst, if you would, for disruption?
Nadia El Hadery: Look, so ultimately, we’re all now more used to having more information on everything. And when we are in our shopping and buying decisions, we’re expecting that level of information, be it on, you know, what am I eating? Where does it come from? Does it align with my personal values? I’m a flexitarian, I’m a vegan, whatever those may be. But also, does it align with my want to be more sustainable or reduce my carbon footprint? These are all questions that I’m potentially now asking when I’m in my buying decision and thinking about what I’m shopping for and I think retailers really need to start to respond to that type of information. We’re seeing young innovators coming up with solutions and new technologies that are sharing all these types of information or even nudging me to make the right decision at the point of consumption. What we now need is the big industry players to come forward and really start to partner with these technologies and innovations.
Phil Lempert: So, Nadia, when you look at the retail grocery landscape, are there any case studies that you can point to that you can go, wow, that’s exactly what this industry needs to do?
Nadia El Hadery: Yeah. So I mean, there’s definitely a few in grocery, but one of the ones I think has got nothing to do with grocery. But really for me, like highlights, it’s like we often look to other industries to see how they’re shifting consumer behaviour patterns and how well it’s working for them and, and to see how that then could be applied to the food industry. And one of the case studies that we’ve been tracking for quite a few years now is the SAS airline one where they’ve been shifting towards biofuel. Now biofuel is way more sustainable, I think it is something like 80% less of the carbon footprint from CO2 emissions perspective. But yet the airline industry doesn’t really use biofuel because it’s cost prohibitive. So SAS have been working with all of these new like strategies in terms of what happens at that point where your customer is actually purchasing the airline ticket to see if they can start shifting the consumer to buying biofuel driven products. So first of all, they did it like a pilot. A test, this is quite a few years back, and they basically said if you want to fly on biofuel on this flight for 20 minutes extra, you can fly for biofuel for 20 minutes. It’s an extra €10, let’s say, so every 20 minutes that you wanted to fly on biofuel it’s an extra €10, and everybody was like “nobody’s ever going to pay an extra €10 to fly on 20 minutes biofuel.” Turns out thousands and thousands and thousands of customers in their pilot actually did switch to biofuel. So now they’ve created all these loyalty and reward systems that they’re rolling out on a much bigger scale that allow you to actually fly biofuel if you bulk buy airline tickets with them. So let’s say you buy 30 journeys with them. You can fly biofuel for all of those journeys at a fixed price. So suddenly we’re starting to see the airlines taking responsibility. Ok, it’s not health and wellness, but it’s responsibility for their environmental footprint. They’re ahead of legislation. They’re ahead of any government requirement for us to actually start to, you know, tax people or whatever. They’re already moving a community in a completely different way. I think these case studies are really, really powerful because we absolutely fundamentally need to be applying similar methodology and consumer behaviour metrics to what’s happening within the food industry, particularly at the point of consumption and purchase, not just within sustainability, but also within our health and wellness habits. And so we start to look at things like that, and then we start to scout technologies that could allow us to do the same sort of thing within the food industry. And I find we are lagging, we are so far behind. Yeah. Apparently the food and drink industry contributes to 28% of man made emissions. So that drives me crazy. And then you think about the food crisis in terms of health and the contributing factors like obesity. We should absolutely be encouraging or nudging our customers to eat in a better way.
Phil Lempert: I love your example of SAS and the reason is when I take a look at the airline industry, and they come under a lot of criticism, no question about it, but they really led on loyalty, no question about it. They were there first, people live by their point system, they’re very loyal. And for retailers, for grocery retailers in particular, to be able to see that and understand that, you know, a loyalty program should be a lot more than just paperless coupons and it can be a lot more. And, you know, to your example, with the biofuel, being able to tie in sustainability efforts to a loyalty program at a grocery retailer could be huge. And could be actually what we need to change people’s behaviours. So when we look at, you know, your crystal ball and we look at, you know, 2023, what are some tips that you’d like to give retailers? All retailers, not just grocery retailers that could have a very high impact for them?
Nadia El Hadery: Yeah, I think it’s, so, I think it’s back to this, like, shift that we talked about and just really highlighting how quickly I think that and everything that we tracking or is involving and this absolute information that we all have available our fingertips and information that’s personal on me, but now, like, there’s this new wave of wearables. I mean, we’re all tracking our steps. We’re all probably logging our calories somewhere. We all have our personal goals, and objectives. But wearables is about to move into a whole, a whole new category. You can measure your breath to work out what your CO2 like output is, to work out what your metabolic flexibility is. You’re getting real time glucose tracking, which is working out whether I’ve got a glycemic index spike or not and what the impact of that. So we’re going to enter into this phase of, and it’s new, but this phase of like DIY biohacking, let’s say my personal optimization of what it is for me and what I need. And so I just think that if you’re not already delivering on basic information, transparency, and you’re not helping your consumer actually be able to shop by their needs or by their values or by their identity, whatever those things are, that ultimately, because this process is not going away, it’s growing, is escalating. And the actual level that I want to drill into on my personalization of what’s good for me, what’s good for my husband that runs 30k a week when I only run 10k a week. My child who, you know, has their own ambitions, doesn’t want to eat meat anymore. Like if I can’t actually shop and cater for my entire family and everyone’s personal needs and all the crazy information that we now have available to us, I’m probably going to go somewhere that is allowing me to do that and rewarding me for the values that I have set. So I think for me, the biggest tip I would have for retailers and of course they’re doing lots of great stuff but is actually getting in control of your information and your transparency so that when we do get to this point of real, like personalised shopping, that you’re able to, you’re able to deliver and categorise on that quickly. So get your data sorted, basically!
Phil Lempert: So what I’m also hearing from you is a challenge to these retailers that says get your data, get your act together. Otherwise you’re going to lose shoppers.
Nadia El Hadery: I think so, yeah. I think in the end, because I think there’s lots of other companies that are coming up competing in an incredible manner. They’re delivering on those types of things. And, you know, we’ve seen in other industries, you know, companies come from nothing and become real competitors in industries that thought they were completely safe and sound. And, you know, why would, why would food be any different? Suddenly, the world of e-commerce and not having to have a physical store or location means that ultimately a lot of this is anybody’s game.
Phil Lempert: Nadia, great insights. Thank you for joining us today on The Modern Shopper.
Nadia El Hadery: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Phil.