As one of the UK’s leading food and packaging communications agencies we’re constantly looking at the trends that will affect food marketing and packaging PR.
So, during the last few weeks of 2016 we’ll be making our predictions about the 2017 trends that will affect food producers and processors, packaging and distribution companies as well as grocery and foodservice in the year ahead.
In the third of the series we look at the effects of robotics. Look out for further instalments of food marketing and packaging PR predictions.
Will the robots take over?
As well as the automation of activities like shopping, there will be an increasing use of robotics.
In June US retail giant Wal-Mart announced it was working with a robotics company to develop a shopping trolley that helps customers find items on their lists and saves them pushing a heavy cart through a sprawling store and carpark.
Such trolleys are an emerging opportunity for robotics companies as bricks-and-mortar stores look for innovative ways to match the convenience of online retailers.
But if you can’t be bothered to push a trolley around a store, you can of course shop online. However, don’t expect a friendly van driver to drop off your groceries in the future. Delivery robots will soon be a common sight. Starship Technologies began a trial with takeaway delivery app Just Eat in July 2016 to trial self-driving delivery robots on the streets of London.
The robots are designed to drive totally unaided while being monitored by human operators in control centres who can take over at any time. These nifty little bots have already driven close to 5,000 miles and met over 400,000 people without a single accident, using cameras, sensors and other technology to navigate their way through urban streets.
This is part of a wider trend that will see 25% of supply chain jobs replaced by robots in the next 20 years. The prediction was made by the Institute of Grocery Distribution, which also claims that there’s a 79% chance that robots will be doing the jobs of HGV drivers by 2035.
Nissan has developed an automated chair. The chair has been launched in Japan to help restaurant customers sit instead of queuing. Called the ProPilot chair, it moves customers to the front of the line when it’s their turn to order.
It uses the same technology in the Nissan Serena minivan, a semi-autonomous vehicle, that helps the car stay in the middle of a lane and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Nissan will be piloting the chair in restaurants across Japan throughout 2017.
The Japanese company has also developed automated office chairs that tuck themselves under the desk at the end of the day.
Farming is another sector that will see further automation. French farmers are already working with weeding robots developed by Naïo Technologies. Launched in June, the new robot goes by the name of Dino and has been specifically designed for vegetable farms of 10 ha (24 acres) or more. The Dino robot straddles vegetable beds to mechanically weed them without human intervention.
It is designed for farmers wanting to save time through efficient mechanical weeding. Dino is lighter and more energy-efficient than a tractor. It doesn’t compact soil, is environment-friendly and also avoids unnecessary physical strain during weeding.
Given rising input costs and the possibility that Brexit will reduce the amount of skilled labour available in the UK, many farmers, food processors, grocery and foodservice outlets will be looking to introduce robots for many tasks traditionally undertaken by low paid workers.
Expect to see: the loss of low paid manual jobs, R2D2 delivering your Tesco online order.
Pelican Communications are specialists in the environment, food and drink, outdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.