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15 or 16 May 2024

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In Amsterdam, green grocery baskets indicate shoppers are open to chatting with strangers

Yesterday, on Blue Monday, a Dutch soup brand launched a campaign in ten of Amsterdam's Albert Heijn grocery stores to facilitate connections across different age groups. Next to the stores' usual bright blue baskets, Oma's Soep placed stacks of green ones.

The green baskets feature the text "I'm open to a good chat," signaling a shopper's willingness to engage with strangers. Accompanying flyers offer conversation starters and space for exchanging phone numbers for future chats. Following a pilot in Amsterdam, the chat baskets might also be rolled out to other towns and cities.

The initiative isn't Oma's Soep's first effort  at bridging the gap between young and old. As a social enterprise committed to reducing loneliness among older adults, the brand organizes weekly soup deliveries by volunteers in 12 Dutch cities and hosts speed-dating nights, collective soup-cooking events and other social activities, often led by student volunteers.

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Mixing people of all ages and all walks of life, supermarkets have the potential to facilitate unexpected connections. But our screen-centeredness and AirPod-cocooning don't exactly make that easy. Add in self-scanning, which removes opportunities to chat with a checkout person or the next shopper in line, and it's clear interventions are needed.

Loneliness is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is increasingly recognized as a global health concern. While many solutions will be on a policy level — for example, designing public spaces to promote encounters and training health workers to spot loneliness — Oma's Soep demonstrates how companies can pitch in to battle social isolation and foster a culture of connection. How could your brand encourage opportunities for everyday interactions?

Related: Supermarket Jumbo designates 200 cash registers for checkout chats

Innovation of the day

Spotted by: Reinier Evers