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Breaking the Food Chain

Eco-conscious design and cultural authenticity are reshaping grocery stores and supermarkets around the world

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T HE GROCERY SECTOR is undergoing a revolution: In this new era, these stores transcend the role as a mere marketplace, emerging as beacons of mindful consumption and communal spirit shaped by how we buy and how we live.

Step into any newly opened supermarket and you’ll be greeted by sophisticated simplicity, according to Amanda Sarver, Manager, Interior Design at The Kroger Co. (Cincinnati). Clean lines and adaptable signage redefine the shopping experience, guiding customers effortlessly through aisles. Amid the minimalism, technology pulses discreetly, offering real-time promotions and product information.

Breaking the Food Chain

Sustainability isn’t overlooked. From Falcon board to recyclable SEG fabrics, eco-conscious design elements are woven in seamlessly. Beyond aesthetics, these spaces have become dynamic hubs of community engagement.

“Consumers are seeking authenticity and trust,” says Sarver, which is why stores are demonstrating a tangible commitment to local partnerships and genuine connection.

Breaking the Food Chain

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Take the L. Stroetmann Harbor Market in Münster, Germany, designed by Zürich-based Interstore. This food hall-supermarket crossover is nestled in the Harbor District alongside lively pubs and restaurants, so it had to make an impact. “The design aims to provide an emotional and experiential entrance,” says Verena Zirwes, Client Service Director at L. Stroetmann.

Shoppers step into a characterful food hall offering stalls staffed by local brands and proceed into a more traditional supermarket with “red brick industrial hall aesthetics and graphics resembling an art gallery.”

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Breaking the Food Chain

Collaborations with beloved local suppliers include an integrated wine store that features a retired shop’s furniture and a seating area with an espresso bar. “The concept represents a shift towards experiential shopping, catering to changing customer preferences and ensuring future relevance,” says Zirwes.

Breaking the Food Chain

In the heart of Southern California, Northgate’s Mercado González, too, stands as a beacon of cultural authenticity and culinary diversity. Northgate (Anaheim, Calif.) and Shook Kelley (Los Angeles) “worked together on a strategy to truly own and reclaim the brand’s credibility and expertise in traditional, authentic Mexican food and heritage by leveraging a culturally specific format: The mercado,” says Sabrina Fan, Managing Principal at Shook Kelley.

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From the iconic puestos, unique stalls celebrating regional specialties with an “old world approach to visual merchandising,” to communal seating areas enveloped in vibrant murals and open kitchens evoking the spirit of culinary theater, every element captures the soul of an authentic Mexican mercado. Despite challenges in repurposing a traditional supermarket space, the design team seamlessly integrated the mercado’s hallmark features, ensuring shoppers a rich, immersive experience.

Breaking the Food Chain Mercado González celebrates Mexican culture by incorporating puestos, communal areas, open kitchens and design elements of the traditional mercado.

As these grocery stores blur the lines between shopping and cultural exploration, they stand as a testament to the enduring power of heritage and community in shaping the modern grocery landscape.

PHOTO GALLERY (50 IMAGES)
📷 DANIEL HORN PHOTOGRAPHY | LAWRENCE ANDERSON STUDIO/ROBERT SANCHEZ

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MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

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