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Case Study: Belgium’s digital deli concept

“My muse is the digital world.” — Nicola Formichetti

In Australia we are noticing more and more retailers disrupting the food retail sector so it comes as no surprise that one of the top global retail trends of the past twelve months, as identified by Ebeltoft Group, is ‘passion for food’. This week’s case study falls into this category, of an increasing number of concepts launching to enhance the offer and experience in food, providing much more than convenience, quality and prices.

Cru is a premium food store, located in a unique environment: a renovated former farmhouse in Overijse, near Brussels, close to a retail park. Cru, French for the English “raw,” is a concept launched by Colruyt Group and distinguishes itself by an exclusive, locally sourced assortment and innovative customer path: a digital tablet as a ‘smart assistant’ for the customer and no cashier.

Cru offers a unique mix of appealing natural, authentic, fresh products and innovative integration of technologies that make the experience both convenient and highly personalised. Although self-scanning was introduced in food retail several years ago, the Cru concept is distinctive, replacing bar codes with QR codes, which provide significant information, and facilitating a fluid payment process, enabled by a digital tablet that eliminates interaction with the cashier.

As the customer enters Cru, a host provides a special digital tablet fitted with a Cru card that can scan products’ QR codes as the items are placed in the shopping cart. By scanning the QR codes, the customers also gain access to more detailed product descriptions, adding value to this customer journey.

At the conclusion of the path, the payment process is extremely simple: the customer returns the tablet, scans the Cru card in the payment machine and pays the total, either in cash or by credit card. This payment process also can be completed by the customer using a personal mobile phone, via the Cru mobile app.


The tablets and the QR system also provide the customer access to an internal social network, allowing individual shoppers to communicate with both the Cru brand and other customers, to share their opinions and advice about the products and the best ways to prepare and cook ingredients. This interactivity adds value to individual products, strengthens brand awareness and heightens loyalty by creating a sense of community between the shoppers and brand.

The store features a unique assortment of fresh, locally sourced seasonal fruits and vegetables, prepared products such as pastas and sauces, a bakery with fresh breads, pastries, as well as fresh meats, fish and cheese. The store also features ready-to-go food, a wine section a coffee area and a flower shop.

Today time poor consumers are seeking smooth, efficient customer journeys, especially when shopping for daily supplies such as food and the Cru concept is an example of a ‘fit’ retailer truly catering to this need.

Although Cru remains a unique pilot store to date, the Colruyt Group announced plans to open several additional Cru stores in Belgium, the company’s headquarters. Beyond the roll-out of the additional Cru stores, Colruyt is excited to introduce and promote its unique concepts: a new customer path facilitated by technology that allows self-scanning of QR codes with a customised digital tablet or the customer’s mobile phone via the Cru app, in anticipation of the next generation of food stores’ digitalisation.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, Australian elected member of Ebeltoft Group, and can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or

Vikki Weston, co-author of this column, is part of Retail Doctor Group’s Retail Insights team and can be contacted via email at

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