Target to Explore the Future of Food with MIT

Target media lab

“What if…?” Two simple words the Target innovation team spends a lot of time discussing. (Imagine the implications for Private Brand.)

Today, one of the exciting ideas to emerge from those conversations has come to fruition: a new collaboration with MIT’s Media Lab and design firm IDEO that will explore the future of food. The work will focus on areas such as urban farming, food transparency and authenticity, supply chain and health. This multi-year collaboration will push the edges of science, technology and design to give people better control over their food choices and help them to eat healthier.

“By combining the boundless curiosity and discovery of MIT’s Media Lab and IDEO’s human-centered approach to design with Target’s knowledge of retail, we can reimagine the future of food,” said Greg Shewmaker, one of Target’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, who is leading the Food + Future coLAB. “We know more about what’s in our smartphones than we do in the last meal we ate.  And that’s something we want to change. This collaboration will help to unlock more options and create more transparency not just for Target’s guests, but consumers everywhere.”

“The challenges around the future of food are so broad, systemic and complex that no one entity can solve for them alone. We have to work together,” added IDEO coLAB Director Matt Weiss.

The roadmap for the next year will include several milestones:

  • This month, Target will kick-off a major project with MIT Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines. Through this initiative, we will collect and analyze billions of public data points – spanning brand communications, traditional and social media messages and supply chain information – in an effort to map the global conversations related to food.
  • Later this year, Target will launch a website with IDEO to identify trends and ultimately explore how food will be grown, sold and consumed in the next 15 years.
  • In January, Target and IDEO will launch the Food + Future coLAB in Cambridge, Mass. The coLAB, which will draw on innovative research being conducted at the MIT Media Lab, will house multidisciplinary teams from these three organizations, as well as others, tasking them with solving some of the toughest challenges related to food.
  • Target and MIT’s Open Agriculture initiative will also begin a multi-year collaboration to explore city farming across multiple scales of an open platform.

Caleb Harper, Director of the Open Agriculture initiative at MIT’s Media Lab, will work with Target and IDEO on the city farming initiative.

“Our work with Target is a collaboration in the truest sense of the word. The MIT team will bring our expertise in research and technology, while Target brings their ability to scale and reach the world,” said Harper. “People like to say things like, ‘the best strawberries come from Mexico.’ But really, the best strawberries come from the climate in Mexico that creates expressions like sweetness and color that we like. We think there is tremendous opportunity to democratize climate through control-environment agriculture and we look forward to kicking off this work with Target.”

SOURCE: A Bullseye View

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.