Spotted: US grocer Albertsons is piloting an AI-powered salad bar in six of its stores on the East Coast. The next-level salad bars are designed and delivered by European food technology company Picadeli, which currently has salad bars in thousands of stores across Europe. The Albertson’s salad stations are the companies first foray into the US market.
The internet-connected bars will initially feature around 50 to 60 selections at a time. The company supplies all food items for the bars through relationships it maintains with food producers. Products arrive at stores in containers labelled with QR codes. Store staff scan these as the items are added to the salad bar. Picadeli then automatically monitors how long products have been on display, generating alerts when food is at the end of its shelf life. The system also optimises the assortment of foods in each store based on consumption patterns.
The smart salad bar also has sensors to ensure items are kept at the proper temperature and detect if the hood used to cover them is not closed after a consumer is finished taking food. Safety is also improved by shielding hoods, automatic hand sanitisers, and a mounting system for utensils that ensures the grip is never in contact with food, and that products are not mixed. Picardeli also emphasises the sustainability of its bars. Ingredients are specifically selected for each market and efficiencies reduce food waste.
In Europe, the system has translated into higher sales and improved profitability, and the company hopes to replicate this in the US. Prices at the Albertson’s bars will remain the same as with conventional salad bars. “The lack of convenient, healthy fresh food at an affordable price has created a unique opportunity for grocers to win over consumers who have been left behind by the growth in cheap, less healthy fast food, and expensive fast-casual concepts,” commented Patrik Hellstrand, CEO of Picadeli US, adding, “The fast-fresh food market is ripe for disruption and innovation, and Picadeli’s proven offering has demonstrated it solves this need for consumers and leading retailers across Europe. We look forward to continuing to deliver on our mission here in the U.S.”
Applying connectivity to food service not only increases profits and reduces waste for stores, but can also help bring more choice to food deserts. At Springwise, we are in a unique position to see this trend develop, with innovations like staff-free grocery stores in rural areas and an app that connects people in need with supermarkets and restaurants that have food to give away.
Written By: Lisa Magloff