As a Master's student of Health Food Innovation Management, I love going to the grocery store. This love started when I was a kid. A trip to the supermarket often ended with my parents buying me a chocolate chip cookie. I grew up in the U.S. and remember those cookies were literally the size of my face. Cookie dimensions are just one example of how supermarkets a can give insight into a country's culture.
Grocery stores, like the chain Costco, reflect the American tendency for extremes. Costco stores are actual warehouses where towering food shelves, enormous walk-in fridges and XXL grocery carts really shift your gears into the ultimate shopping mode. Although it's not hard to find whole lamb carcasses or bucket-sized peanut butter jars, the amount of choice can be overwhelming. I would rather not want to know how much time I've spent deciding between the usual ten brands of canned tomatoes.
As a leader in the entertainment world, the U.S. does its best to pimp your everyday shopping trip. I remember when our local Safeway gave its mist machine a real Hollywood upgrade. Before sprinkling droplets of water over a crate of lettuce heads, thunder started sounding through speakers and the shelf lights flickered like lightning.
While Dutch supermarkets may not have thundering mist machines, they do embody the country's knack for innovation. For example, Albert Heijn's new scan & go technology lets you scan goods with your phone, whilst browsing through the store. It's impressive to see that AH managed to streamline the shopping experience way before Amazon launched its in-store grab & go technology.
Next to the typical stamppot ingredients, novelties like pea protein bars, sea weed burgers and exotic miniature kiwis have found their place on Dutch grocery shelves. While you might expect the dairy aisle to be reserved for Dutch cows only, it's stacked with Turkish, Swedish, Islandic, American and German brands. Plus, there's still room for startups to showcase their first products. This variety is not only a direct measure of the Dutch openness to foreign cultures and new trends, but also gives grocery store lovers, like myself, plenty of reasons to keep coming back.
Nina Schröder, master student Health Food Innovation Management