Disruption & uncertainty: The state of European grocery retail 2021

About the research

In its inaugural year, Disruption and Uncertainty—The State of Grocery Retail 2021: Europe marks a partnership between McKinsey & Company and EuroCommerce designed to provide executives with a comprehensive view on an industry forced to adapt at unprecedented speed. We surveyed more than 10,000 consumers and around 50 grocery executives across Europe. We interviewed six industry thought leaders and pioneers. We combined EuroCommerce’s policy and sector knowledge with McKinsey’s global expertise and analytical rigor.

The state of the grocery retail industry—review of 2020


A year like no other for European grocery retailers: The state of the industry post 2020

– The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the European grocery-retail landscape at unprecedented speed and scale. Five major forces at the heart of this change came together and reinforced one another.

The speed and magnitude of these changes will reshuffle the cards and create new winners and losers. Grocery retailers that take bold moves to address major shifts, such as online or health, have a unique opportunity to win market shares.

Daniel Läubli Co-Leader of McKinsey’s European Retail Practice

Grocery Retail in 2021


The path forward for European grocery retailers

– COVID-19 changed the market in unprecedented ways in the past months. Now evolving consumer demands also require grocery retailers to adopt new strategies to increase performance and pursue growth.

What we see, both in consumer demand patterns and in the grocery industry response, is a new level of discontinuity—and we have no reason to believe that things will cool down soon.

Tobias Wachinger Senior Partner at McKinsey

Channel shifts



think that the market situation will worsen in 2021 compared with 2020

Building ecosystems around physical and online grocery offerings: An interview with Per Strömberg

– ICA’s CEO explains how the Swedish grocery retailer is expanding its physical and online ecosystem by analyzing consumer... behavior to see what nonfood items customers seek.

E-commerce is shifting how European grocery retailers seek profitable growth

– Winning online was a priority for growth in grocery retail even before the onset of the pandemic. Now, with the increase in online... shopping, e-commerce acceleration and profitability have become top priorities for many European grocers.

Doubling online grocery capacity during the pandemic: An interview with Matthew Simister

– Tesco’s Central Europe CEO shares how the grocery chain will continue to gain market share by meeting customers’ increasing... expectations for value in quality, freshness, and pricing.

Will brick-and-mortar supermarkets survive in Europe?

– In a fragmented customer landscape full of pandemic-related disruptions, supermarkets must adapt to remain competitive and rediscover... their distinctive offering.

Changes in price and value


of consumers

plan to look for ways to save money while grocery shopping

Sustainability and health are top of mind for today’s grocery retailers: An interview with Frans Muller

– Ahold Delhaize’s president and CEO explains how the Belgian grocer has prioritized employees’ mental health, leveraged... digital personalization tools to help consumers make healthy and sustainable food choices, and connected with the community through local initiatives.

Value-for-money perception must go beyond price for European grocers

– The days of competing on price alone are long gone, and the value-for-money perception of many European supermarket chains has... been under extreme pressure. Our research shows that perception is driven by several factors that need to be addressed.

Lifestyle agendas drive food demand


of consumers

intend to spend more on healthy eating in 2021

The path forward for sustainability in European grocery retail

– Though grocers have focused on product safety and hygiene during the pandemic, sustainability remains a key priority for consumers... and grocery CEOs alike. Now, grocers should focus on how to deliver against their commitments and empower consumers to make sustainable choices.

Sustainability and growth go hand in hand: An interview with Mikko Helander

– Kesko’s CEO explains why the Finnish company, which has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025, views sustainability... as an integral part of its success story.

Efficiency and new value pools


annual growth of investments in warehouse automation

Speed in IT becomes a differentiator

Prioritizing flexibility in tech strategies can unlock new value for grocers

– As European grocers realize that embracing new technology is core to their strategy, flexibility is the key to successful transformation.... It’s not always about what retailers are doing in tech adoption, but how.

Unleashing technology to meet shifting grocery demand: An interview with Christoph Eltze

– REWE Digital’s chairman explains how the German e-grocery leader views IT as an avenue for the company to expand its click-and-collect... services and create innovative last-mile delivery solutions.

Enhancing customers’ grocery journey through digitization: An interview with Igor Shekhterman

– X5’s CEO explains how the grocery retailer is harnessing big data, AI, and digital tools to better understand what consumers... want.

Grocers can fuel growth with advanced analytics

– Organizational maturity will be a critical element for grocery retailers seeking to unlock the full potential of analytics.

Automation in European grocers’ supply chains has reached its tipping point

– Automation in grocery warehouses has significantly accelerated, thanks to several trends. Now is the time for retailers to reassess... their automation strategies.

About the Editors

Gemma D’Auria is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Dubai office; Franck Laizet is a senior partner in the Paris office; Daniel Läubli is a partner in the Zurich office; Virginia Simmons is a senior partner in the London office and the managing partner of McKinsey’s UK and Ireland offices; Rickard Vallöf is a partner in the Oslo office; and Tobias Wachinger is a senior partner in the Munich office. Jean-Albert Nyssens is the chief economist for EuroCommerce, and Christian Verschueren is the director-general of EuroCommerce.

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