Our new book is the biggest thing in food retail since the supermarket

Online shopping and changing consumer demands are radically transforming the food retail industry for the first time since the introduction of the supermarket in the 1930s. After decades of stagnation, food retail is currently one of the most creative and fastest developing typologies in spatial design.

A result of a three-year research project with over 100 retail design students at Peter Behrens School of Arts (University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf), Hybrid Food Retail offers an overview of the history, presents an encyclopaedic analysis of the elements, and highlights the emerging trends in the food retail industry. As new formats are being developed, this 403-page handbook prescribes hybridization – a fusion of supermarket and gastronomy, co-working, hospitality and performative formats – as a powerful tool against digital disruption.

Here are some of our favourite excerpts from the book, now available for purchase in our web store.


Differentiation by design is one of the new sources of value creation in retail. The industry did not pay attention to design during its supply chain and purchase-driven period, but since 2007 it has started to do so. So, what design approaches can be derived from the supply chain?

One approach is the traditional ‘market’ in the form of a marketplace, street food market or farmers’ market. The supply chain is concealed and a pre-industrial bond between producer and consumer implied. However, if anything, this metaphor constitutes more a marketing wrapper than a reduction in the complexity of the supply chain. On the contrary, additional transshipment, transport packaging and work stages are needed.


The choice of narrative sets the story’s scene, determining its atmosphere and its key elements. If the narrative is no more than the ‘best possible price’, it will offer a sober atmosphere and its motif will be that of the warehouse. However, if the storyline is ‘street food market’, the atmosphere will tend to be more informal and warmer; its design elements will work with vintage and ready-made displays. To match the mood, the layout will arrange the elements ‘entrance’, ‘attractors’, ‘line-ups’ and ‘exit’ like scenes in a film.


Most food retail sales areas are designed as extensive, pillar-free, interconnected spaces without partition walls. This 'big box' is empty inside. The 'warehouse' has been the concept behind supermarket design since the 1930s – interiors have been designed above all to be functional and impersonal. The choice of materials has been oriented more towards function, fire prevention or hygiene, rather than supporting a customer journey or communication. Hybridisation, however, will also create new requirements for the design of interiors. The floor, internal walls and ceiling all present themselves as surfaces to be designed.


Digitalisation is integrating many of the advantages of e-commerce into stationary retail, such as the availability of unbiased customer ratings, filter options, fast payment methods and detailed background information about products. This gives retailers the advantage of a larger product range despite a smaller sales area. Staff’s duties will shift in the direction of advice and entertainment and a large number of jobs will fall away completely. The predominantly screen-based solutions offered by digitalisation will develop further into augmented reality and projection mapping applications. Designing such interfaces will become an exciting field for retail designers.

Buy your copy of Hybrid Food Retail here.

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