The future of back-to-school snacking

Futurist predicts personalized diets and crowd sourced delivery on the horizon for grocery retail


This week children across North America donned their knapsacks in anticipation of a new school year.

But while back-to-school season is full of excitement and change for students, it can be a time filled with stress and anxiety for parents. A new survey by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Visa Canada found 52% of Canadian parents with children aged 5 to 16 found back-to-school preparations to be stressful for them and their families.

In light of this, Visa commissioned a report by futurist Ross Dawson, who identified technologies that might exist by 2024 to help erase the stress of the month.

Thirty-nine per cent of respondents felt arranging school lunches, in particular, to be the most stressful part of the season.

The main concerns, according to Dawson, are the need to plan nutritious meals, create shopping lists and buy food on a timely basis so it doesn’t go to waste. He predicts if grocers were to expand their delivery systems using crowd sourced delivery networks and drones, this could help parents alleviate some of the stress caused by school lunches.

Creating a system to play on personalized diets would also be beneficial to families, says Dawson. Technology should be able to factor in preferences like cost, prep time, and dietary preferences to generate options that both children and parents can choose from.

“Rather than parents telling their children what they should eat, and the children by contrast saying what they want, the new technology can generate some options to satisfy both,” said Dawson.

After the ordering process, Dawson says we will see more sophisticated options for delivery or pick up, as well as payment options. “We’ll see drop off stations in a number of countries that are just as convenient as at home,” says Dawson. “There’s also a possibility that the groceries won’t delivered to our homes at a certain regulated time – companies can use tracking to ensure it’s delivered as we walk to our front door.”

Dawson is quick to point out that his role as a futurist is not synonymous with being a fortune teller. Instead, he looks at social and demographic shifts to help envision what might be possible in the future. He hopes his predictions incite discussion, and should companies feel his ideas are useful, they can choose to pursue them.

In terms of the grocery industry, Dawson says, any changes will be at the result of customer demand.

“If you look at retail and its shift to a newer and more dynamic future, the progress is a bit slower than you would think,” Dawson says. “But now there are a lot of things in place that include more about logistics and availability. There’s more of a familiarity with technology, and I believe this will accelerate and there will be a lot faster of a shift in the grocery business.”