The future of grocery shopping for an ageing population: our partnership with Coop Italy (Scuola Coop)

We're collaborating with Coop Italy (Scuola Coop) to build a mutually-supportive partnership that will seek to monitor and receive cues from what is happening in the world of the 'silver' economy.

Woman grocery shopping
The supermarket of the future was a pilot project at the Milan World Expo in 2015



Older adults’ shopping preferences are changing, as their time, financial situations and health conditions alter across their different stages of life. Combined with urbanisation and digitalisation trends, the rapid increase in the number of older consumers will drive the future retail sector, requiring transformations and adaptations ranging from product design to store design. Older consumers may prefer home delivery services or smaller stores that are easily accessible by public transport or just walking distance as the 15 Minute City paradigm suggests and our work on pedestrianism sustains.

We must be very aware that ageing demographic shopping preferences can be as diverse as other consumer groups: while many of them still enjoy in-store shopping, many do embrace online shopping or want new shopping experiences both in-store or online. Furthermore, we should consider at least two main other aspects, as highlighted by The University of Hertfordshire’s Food and Public Health Research team study “The Food Provision in Later Life[1]: “Staying in control of their own food shopping is considered key by older people determined to retain their independence and sense of community belonging […] Crucially, food shopping provides older people with opportunities for social interaction as the risk of loneliness increases. Supermarkets that introduce creative, practical measures to improve the shopping experience for older customers can play a leading role in protecting older people’s food security, and appeal to an increasingly important target market.”

Moreover, food shopping provides older people with opportunities for social interaction as the risk of loneliness decreases. In the study, interviews with study participants highlighted the importance of the “social and pleasurable aspects of shopping in supermarkets”. For some older people the weekly trip to the supermarket represented “the only opportunity for social interaction within the local community”. Food shopping is something which most of us take for granted. There was a strong sense that supermarkets could do more to make the ‘weekly shop’ a more inclusive, enjoyable, sociable and less stressful experience for older people and findings from focus groups involving industry, policymakers and the not-for-profit sector by the University of Hertfordshire’s research supported this approach.

As a result, we decided to collaborate with Coop Italy, the largest retail chain in Italy, with a turnover of 13.2 billion Euros, and a 18.1% market share, to jointly explore the innovation plays happening around the shopping experiences that could be meaningful for an older demographic, cross-fertilize our backgrounds and field of business and research with the aim of highlighting those solutions, products, approaches, languages, narrative that proved to be effective and could be systematized.

Our approach

As NICA, we pride ourselves on providing a dynamic environment in which multiple stakeholders can come together to share knowledge, ideas, experience and innovation. We are unique in being able to access expertise drawn from a wide range of disciplines, businesses and older consumers, which means that we are aware of market trends, health and social care challenges, and the latest innovations in industry. With our focus on Horizoning and our Ageing Intelligence® approach, we enable organisations to generate new insights and patterns, and to learn continuously from existing and real time data.

It was quite natural to deal with a cooperative with 7.4 million consumer members (i.e. customers who have signed up to be part of this cooperative retail approach) and over 56,000 employees. Its multi-format structure includes 100 hypermarkets and over 1400 supermarkets, convenience and discount stores across cities, towns and rural areas. It has a thriving employee community network which is supported by its internal communication system called ‘Nimby’ which also hosts its national Training Academy ‘Scuola Coop’.

The project

Our partnership with Coop Italy is mutually supportive, we help each other to monitor and receive cues from what is happening in the world of longevity economies.

We have been working with the communications team at Nimby to provide a regular flow of information in the form of blogs, linked articles, interviews and imagery, via the Nimby portal, to raise awareness of ageing innovations and ageing research, and the impact that this will have on the ‘silver’ economy. We meet regularly to exchange ideas, knowledge and innovations.

The long term vision

It is anticipated that as the partnership develops there will be further opportunities to collaborate and engage with the Nimby community, Scuola Coop, and Coop Italy workers and consumers. We hope to build a community of consumers/employees who can take part in surveys, product development workshops, and citizen insights activities.

Want to join us?

If you want more information, or if your organization is keen to take advantage of this sum of knowledge or would like to establish the same type of observatory, please email