Blog: The rise of food-tech: What role can shopping centres play to support a more sustainable food system?

Consumer preferences change over time. This means that shopping centre operators always need to be open to fresh innovations and integrate them into their businesses. During the past decade, we have seen that consumers from the Nordic countries have become increasingly aware of how food is affecting both health and the environment. There are also discussions about how the food system will need to adapt to a growing world population as well as the expected climate crisis with extreme weather conditions.

Shopping centres can help support urban farming, photo of indoor farm technology

A new buzzword has emerged: Food-tech refers to new technology, digitalization and innovations that change the way food is produced, distributed and consumed in a more sustainable way. Creative start-ups within food-tech are popping up everywhere and they want to be part of the next-gen food system. Here are a few examples:

New ways to distribute food

A hot topic within food-tech is creating new ways to deliver food. Local Food Nodes is a digital platform where consumers can buy local produce and retrieve the food themselves from special delivery spots. The aim is to build a new food distribution system that doesn’t involve any intermediaries. Amazon and Uber are exploring the possibilities of drone deliveries, and the Swedish restaurant Onlinepizza has tested delivering pizza with drones.  

An innovative form of food-tech: urban farming

Food-tech companies offer technical solutions for urban farming. Grönska is a company that offers systems for indoor farming in urban environments as an alternative to imported vegetables and herbs. We see examples of urban farming in places like the Stockholm districts of Högdalen, Liljeholmen and Larsboda. 

Shopping centres can take a role in supporting more sustainable food systems, photo of hydroponic farming

Solving problems with food waste

Reports indicate that up to a third of all produced food is never consumed and food waste accounts for around 8% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases. Karma and Matsmart want to change this. 

Matsmart is an e-commerce platform offering food with a short expiration date. Karma is an app that allows restaurants, cafés and grocery stores to sell leftover food to consumers. The company is present in Sweden and Great Britain and has won recognition from the Nordic Startup Awards and Hottest Startup Awards by the magazine Wired. 

Shopping centres contributing to a more sustainable food system

As a shopping centre manager, I see great opportunities for shopping centre operators to contribute to a more sustainable food system. Urban shopping centres in growing areas are at the heart of society: they are the “living rooms” where people meet, eat and shop. And that is why shopping centres can be part of the solution: Unused, non-leasable spaces such as rooftops and old storage units are potential locations for urban farming. The experiences from places such as Högdalen have already proven that. 

Companies such as Karma and Matsmart are already changing the idea of how food is consumed through data and technology. Visitors in shopping centres, such as Liljeholmstorget Galleria and Kista Galleria, use Karma to buy food that otherwise would have been thrown away. With all the restaurants, cafés, grocery stores, rooftops, storage units and – most importantly – the people, shopping centres can play an active role in developing the food system for a more sustainable society in which the next generations can thrive.