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Acting for tomorrow around the world: Digitisation and sustainability

Focal Point / Trade Letter

When in Rome, do as the Romans do –what’s applicable to tourists is equally applicable to an international company like METRO. Being active in 35 countries, METRO faces an array of challenges that call for individual answers.

This article includes several parts:

  • Part 1: Acting for tomorrow around the world: Entrepreneurship
  • Part 2: Acting for tomorrow around the world: Digitisation and sustainability

Digitisation – a unique opportunity

To remain successful in the food and hospitality sector, there is no getting around digitisation. It is therefore a priority for METRO that its customers can benefit from the opportunities offered by digital innovations. An example of this can be found at METRO Cash & Carry stores in France, where the customers can produce their shopping lists digitally using the METRO scan app. The digital shopping list function is made available to the customers on scanners in-store, allowing them to easily compile a list of the items they want. This allows the customers to get their shopping done quickly and then focus on their core business.

The HoReCa Digital business unit focuses on the company-wide development and promotion of digital innovations in the food service sector. This is also where METRO’s start-up support programmes are based.

Sparing the environment with electric vehicles and vertical farming

Speed is the key when it comes to making deliveries to METRO customers. And the METRO Express delivery service in Vienna proves that, on top of this, acting economically and protecting the environment go hand in hand. The service makes carbon-neutral deliveries to restaurateurs using electric vehicles, with their goods being delivered within 3 hours.

METRO doesn't only protect the climate on the roads, but also in its METRO Cash & Carry stores, for example with the concept of vertical farming, which METRO has been trialling in one of its stores in Berlin since 2015. This involves herbs and lettuce being grown in greenhouses right there in the store, thereby eliminating delivery journeys and the emissions these cause. 'With vertical farming, we are exploring new paths in the area of food origins and production, and are making sustainable food accessible to our customers directly in the store,' explains Fabio Ziemßen, Head of Food Innovation and Food Tech at METRO. The first restaurateurs are already using the vertical farming concept to grow their own herbs and lettuce in their restaurants. 'This reduces food waste, because only the products that are actually served up are grown,' explains Fabio Ziemßen.

At Real, resources and the environment are already being spared in the vegetable fields and on fruit plantations thanks to the permaculture concept. This ecological growing method does away with fertiliser, pesticides and additives, and contributes to biodiversity. The Real product range features a number of fruit and vegetable types grown using permaculture, including avocados, radishes and carrots - offering them just the way nature made them.

With vertical farming, we are exploring new paths in the area of food origins and production, and are making sustainable food accessible to our customers directly in the store.

Fabio Ziemßen, Director Food Innovation, HoReCa Digital
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Trade Letter December 2017

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Top quality standards for the customers

The topic of food safety is fundamental to a trading company like METRO. Quality standards set at the government level are still under development in some countries, such as Pakistan, where the food business is going through a change: 'In addition to the traditional street vendors, a landscape of modern supermarkets is emerging. And food safety is therefore becoming increasingly important, including with regard to competition,' explains Sagar Mahmood Khan, head of quality assurance at METRO Cash & Carry Pakistan.

As a member of the 'Star Farm Pakistan' project, METRO has been promoting the development of quality standards since it entered the Pakistani market ten years ago and works with the Pakistani authorities in this area. As a result, around 17,000 farmers have so far been given training in compliance with international standards. METRO Cash & Carry Pakistan's customers can trace the origins of the products thanks to the Star Farm traceability system. Star Farm activities are not limited to Pakistan - the idea was originally developed and implemented in China. This made METRO China a pioneer in China in the area of food quality and safety.

Promoting regional produce – not only on the shelf

The importance of taking regional differences into account in business is also demonstrated by the way in which the different countries' culinary specialities are dealt with. Regional products are a source of livelihood for many local smallholders, as shown by the example of Ukraine, where a fifth of the population lives on agriculture. METRO supports Ukrainian regional farmers 'from the seed to the plate', as is the motto of its Fermove initiative there. METRO starts by collecting orders for fruit and vegetables according to its customers' requirements and then specifically assigns these orders to local smallholders, who are supplied with the seeds, fertiliser and expertise by an agricultural partner. The freshly produced fruit and vegetables then make it directly to the METRO Cash & Carry stores, where they are sold under the Fermove Label.

Also in Croatia, METRO is supporting regional producers by maintaining a typically Croatian tradition - the rearing of Boškarin cows. This breed of cow from the region of Istria was threatened with extinction - in the 1990s, there were only approximately 100 left. Thanks to METRO's cooperation with the Agency for the Rural Development of Istria (AZRRI) and with farmers in the region, the stocks of this breed were increased again, and there are now more than 3,500 Boškarin cows once again. Measures of this kind don't just maintain traditions - they also give the local producers a boost and promote food diversity.

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A world of diversity

Saving the Boškarin cow, training approximately 17,000 farmers in Pakistan, protecting nature by means of permaculture and vertical farming, and supporting kirana store operators: the world of trade and retail is highly diverse, just like METRO's solutions, in keeping with the motto of 'Acting today for tomorrow'.

Part 1: Acting for tomorrow around the world: Entrepreneurship

Clara Salarich-Ortega

Information about the author

Clara Salarich-Ortega works as Manager EU Affairs in the Representative Office of METRO AG in Brussels clara.salarich@metro.de