There’s a huge amount of food waste, both globally and in the UK. Over a third of all food produced globally goes to waste, while the UK throws away around 9.5 million tons of food waste in a single year. In all, billions of pounds of food are wasted each year.
Picadeli is a company that’s looking to change all that: they are the maker of a smart salad bar that combines hardware and software innovations, including disposable containers, as well as sensors that can record when employees add items, generate alerts when food is going to expire, or even if a customer has left the cover open. The idea is to reduce food waste and spoilage, and to increase revenue for retailers.
At our London Produce Show, we’ll be hearing from David von Laskowski, President and Chief Executive of the Nordic healthy food and convenience company Greenfood Group, as well as CEO Picadeli.
Von Laskowski, an experienced international executive, has previously worked as Chief Executive of numerous international retail players including Axcent of Scandinavia, Visma Retail and Candyking Group as well as holding the position of board member and CFO for other private and public companies.
Furthermore, he has been a researcher at Stanford University and Columbia University and holds a PhD from Stockholm School of Economics.
We asked Steven Loeb, Contributing editor at Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, to find out more. Von Laskowski spoke to us about the advancements in technology for the food space, what the company hopes to achieve by entering the US market, and what he wants to get across at the London Trade Show.
David von Laskowski
President & CEO
Picadeli & Greenfood Group
Q: Salad bars and food preparation are not what someone would usually think of when it comes to technology. What kind of opportunity did you see that wasn’t being met by others in the space?
A: With Picadeli, we saw an opportunity to provide affordable, high-quality prepared foods to customers more efficiently than they can with standard salad bars. By utilising technology, we created a easy-to-manage and automated salad bar that requires less labour than traditional grocery stores salad bars, which translates into higher sales and improved profitability. The high level of digitalisation also generates groundbreaking consumer insights and opportunities for automation.
But we also saw an opportunity to create a unique food ecosystem, a retail concept that includes the hardware, the technology, the brand and the marketing.
Q: Tell me about some of your innovations on the hardware side, such as your disposable containers. How does this help improve health and food safety?
A: We’re fully committed to doing everything we can to create the world’s most easy-to-manage and safe food concept. On the hardware side, that means providing a complete concept solution from digital labels and planograms, to smart hand units for scanning of containers. Each container with products has a QR code which makes it traceable through the intelligent food safety system. It also means that the system can monitor shelf life and trigger alarms if product date expires or temperature deviations.
The containers can also be stored in the salad bars integrated storage fridges for quick and easy refilling. The whole concept is optimised to ensure maximum food safety and that the customers and consumers get a fresh and tasty food experience, every single time.
Q: I’m very interested in the software and connected components of your salad bars, including your use of sensors to record when employees add items and to generate alerts when food is going to expire, among other things. What kind of reduction in food waste have your customers seen?
A: We use a combination of innovative hardware and software to make every part of managing a salad bar as easy and efficient as possible, from ensuring food safety to plan assortment and ensure the correct quantity is ordered every time. The insights and data that our salad bar gathers through software allow for AI automation, and last year we developed our own AI-powered ordering system in partnership with Amazon. It’s a vast digital leap for us. It calculates order recommendations based on, among other things, planograms, current inventory levels and sales history, as well as forward-looking external factors such as weather forecasts and holidays.
In simple terms, through algorithms, we help those who run the salad bar to order the right products in the right quantities. More precise orders are extremely important for reducing food waste.
We are currently piloting the new system; we’re expecting major savings in time and a huge reduction in wasted food.
Q: By reducing food waste and spoilage, are you able to increase revenue for your clients? What other returns on investment do they see?
A: Across the US and Europe, retailers are dealing with labour shortages that are spurring them to implement automated solutions. Our concept requires a lot less labour than traditional grocery stores’ salad bars.
Retailers are also navigating stricter safety restrictions and food safety aspects of COVID-19. Food safety is an integral part to Picadeli’s salad bar design. The salad bar features shielding hoods, automatic hand sanitiser and bowl dispensers. It also uses an innovative mounting system for utensils ensures that the grip is never in contact with food, and that products are not mixed. We are absolutely convinced that we have created the world’s safest salad bar.
Q: You’re now rolling your services out to the US for the first time. How have you had to adjust for this new market?
A: Americans have a consumption pattern that fits our concept; they often eat meals outside the home while there is a great interest in wholesome food options. That being said, there is a lack of convenient, fresh, and tasty foods available at an affordable price. That has created a unique opportunity for us on the US market. So we haven’t had to refine our market-fit or make changes to the concept or the technology.
Q: What do you want to emphasise in your talk at the upcoming London show? What is the key takeaway?
A: In 2021, The World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that 71 percent of all global deaths can be attributed to lifestyle illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The shift towards plant-based diets, more fruit and vegetables is absolutely necessary for our future health and our climate. Anyone who’s able to contribute to change should do so. Our contribution, as part of the fruit and vegetable sector, is to continue to work for the democratisation of healthy food and to prove to consumers that fast food can be nutritious, fresh and tasty.
Making food that is good for the world and good for the individual, easily accessible to all is a noble undertaking. David deserves high praise for finding a way to make this happen.
Yet, in America at least, there is high correlation between high incomes, high educational levels and high produce consumption.
Efforts to, for example, put salad bars in schools have gotten strong industry support, in part because purchase orders start coming in for items sold on salad bars.
But the evidence that children who grow up in schools that have salad bars consume more produce as adults is basically non-existent.
Now, however there is a new high-tech approach and we can certainly expect to see it succeed in places where the old salad bars failed.
Come to The London Produce Show and Conference and learn how this new mechanism may just be a tool that permanently alters the path of produce consumption.
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