Albertsons Cos. tests ‘smart’ salad bars

Albertsons Cos. is piloting a digitally managed, store-in-store salad bar concept at a half-dozen supermarkets on the East Coast.

Los Angeles-based Picadeli US said Tuesday that its Arctic “smart” salad bar, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology, has been rolled out to six Safeway, Acme Markets and Kings Food Markets stores in Maryland, New Jersey and Washington, DC The modular bar has a digital food freshness system, digital labels, smart cooling algorithms and displays to communicate with customers, and the unit connects to a cloud-based monitoring system enabling active and passive control of store-level parameters and remote support.

Each salad bar container has a QR code that be scanned to check that ingredients aren’t staying out too long and to signal the need for refills and AI-driven reorders, Picadeli noted. The digital management system also collects data on consumption, product performance in different locations, cleaning schedules and temperature, enabling retailers to optimize the bar’s assortment and maintenance. The scannable codes, too, enable traceability of the bar’s supply chain and operation via the intelligent food safety system.

Albertsons’ deployment marks the introduction of Picadeli’s smart salad bar in the United States.

“Picadeli has created an innovative, technology-forward solution to address the strong demand for healthy, affordable foods that can be customized quickly,” Jewel Hunt, group vice president of deli foodservice at Albertsons Cos. “Fresh meal solutions is a category where we are continuing to differentiate our offerings, and by introducing Picadeli, we are giving our customers a great option for healthy meals at an affordable price.”

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Picadeli US CEO Patrik Hellstrand said his company’s intelligent salad bar brings much-needed innovation to the fast fresh-food market.

The salad bar can be customized for each location, with ingredients selected specifically for each market, Picadeli reported. The company said the unit’s technology also creates efficiencies that cut down on food waste and reduce labor, in turn increasing profitability. Prioritizing food safety, the smart bar is made of hygiene-first materials and features technology-enabled shielding hoods plus automatic hand sanitizer and bowl dispensers. An innovative mounting system ensures that the grip on utensils doesn’t touch the food and ingredients aren’t mixed.

“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,” according to Patrik Hellstrand, CEO of Picadeli US “Albertsons is a leader in recognizing the demand for healthy and affordable food by its customers, and we are thrilled to work together to introduce our offering to the US”

Sweden-based Picadeli said its retail partners tally “markedly” higher sales and better profitability with its smart bars than with traditional salad bars. The company’s salad bars are in more than 2,200 stores across seven European countries and sold more than 45 million salads in 2019. Retail partners include Carrefour, EuroGarages, Franprix, Rewe, 7-Eleven, Coop, ICA and Kesko.

“The fast fresh-food market is ripe for disruption and innovation,” Hellstrand added, “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 US”

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