Supermarkets' role and challenges during this pandemic

As a primary source of food for consumers, supermarkets represent one of the various ‘essential industries’ in the COVID-19 pandemic. Staying open in such circumstances has required various changes in the way these places operate: adapting to social distancing requirements, ensuring the safety of staff, and meeting the rush of panic-driven demand for certain products.

These challenges, and the current pandemic as a whole, place substantial pressure on supermarket chains. In systems innovation and transition theory, such pressure is recognized as a window for great change, driven by necessity. Such changes may then turn out to be highly effective, and continue to reshape the current way of doing things long after the pandemic.


At this moment, most supermarkets are highly occupied by addressing their current challenges and therefore research on the topic is difficult. However, when these challenges and new ideas have had time to settle down, Athena plans to explore how supermarkets have adapted to the situation. Their experiences in reforming how supermarkets operate can provide valuable information on how this important part of the food chain can be improved upon. This knowledge also supports other projects which seek to innovate in supermarkets, such as our SUPREME NUDGE project.


Written by Cédric Middel