CES 2017: five technologies to watch with a grocery lens

Date : 02 January 2017

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the premier event for businesses focused on consumer technologies. With exhibitors ranging from some of the world’s leading companies in this space to innovative start-ups, a broad range of technologies will be on show, with many products unveiled for the first time.

With this event becoming a key part of the retailing calendar, and an important destination for retail executives, we highlight five of the key areas that we're focusing on at the show this week, given their potential to disrupt the grocery market.

1. Drones and robotics

With several retailers testing delivery by drone in 2016, this is an area that is set to see significant growth in the year ahead. Delivery by drone provides grocery retailers with an opportunity to offer shoppers even greater levels of convenience, although current solutions are best suited for small baskets and impulse-led items. Delivery robots have also been seen on the streets of Europe as companies look to solve the economic challenge of last-mile delivery. Starship Technologies, which is among the leaders in this space, has partnered with both food retailers and food-to-go operators in several European cities to test home delivery. Many companies are moving into this space quickly; expect to see more of these autonomous vehicles on the streets in 2017.

2. Virtual assistants

With Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot the best-selling products for the retailer this Christmas, introducing millions of new customers to Alexa, in-home virtual assistants are becoming mainstream. Amazon is not alone in this space, with Google Home also competing to build a leadership position. A voice-activated smart-speaker which enables users to control their connected home, play music, receive news updates and order products for online delivery, these devices are bringing deep learning and Artificial Intelligence to consumers in a unique way, focused on making everyday tasks easier and more convenient, including home shopping.

3. The connected kitchen

One of the key features of Amazon Echo and Google Home is the ability to control connected smart devices such as heating and cooling systems, lighting and security alarms. Along with the continued innovation in smartphones and smartwatches, which can also control these devices remotely, we are seeing increased smart product development such as smart fridges, trashcans, coffee makers and juicers. A key feature of many of these devices is the ability to automatically re-order used products through adding them to grocery ecommerce lists. Beyond smart-devices, we are also expecting to see more innovation around auto-replenishment, including integrated Amazon Dash buttons.

4. Self-driving and auto-innovation

With a focus on both grocery ecommerce and driving supply chain efficiencies, self-driving vehicles have the potential to have a major impact on the grocery sector. This is a key element of CES this year, with many car manufacturers and technology providers showcasing concept vehicles. Tesla and Alphabet (Google) have been among the leading companies testing self-driving cars in 2016, which like delivery robots and drones, offer the potential to take out some of the cost associated with grocery delivery. 

Self-driving trucks, which have had a relatively lower profile up until now, could be adopted more quickly given the potential labour, and cost savings, they could offer. However, it will be some time before fleets of autonomous vehicles are a common sight on our roads, particularly given the current regulatory and digital frameworks, and the potential impact on employment. Although given the level of investment which is being made in this area, and the focus on improving road safety, further testing and innovation is likely to lead to scalable solutions.

5. Health and wellness analytics

Technology is also enabling consumers to take a more active role in managing their health and wellness. As fitness trackers and other wearables have gone mainstream, other devices are emerging which enable consumers to take a data-driven approach to improving their health and wellness; we are moving from the novelty to the functional. This is expected to further accentuate the growing demand for organics, natural foods and better-for-you ranges, which is already shaping format development and the product offer in grocery stores.


Stewart Samuel, Program Director, IGD Canada
Based in Canada, Stewart heads up all of IGD's research and coverage across North America. Contact Stewart at [email protected] for further insight on the region, including key trends, retailer strategies and the impact of new technologies.

Twitter: @Stewart_IGD