How the BreadBot caters to the need for ultimate convenience and freshness

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With so little time and such busy lives, consumers demand the ultimate in convenience. They want immediate access to everything they desire, without having to wait or compromise. Buying food online and other technological breakthroughs can make life much more convenient. But at the same time, consumers long for freshness, and for the experience they find in (offline) shops. And that’s where the BreadBot comes in. “Customers can watch how the bread starts from basic ingredients and ends up as a complete loaf.”

How the BreadBot caters to the need for ultimate convenience and freshness

Fresh bread made automatically on the spot
BreadBot is the nickname of the Wilkinson Mini Bakery that was recently introduced onto the market. It’s a fully automatic, stand-alone bread bakery in which the authentic feeling of bread is combined with a new technology. Randall Wilkinson, CEO of Wilkinson Baking, explains all about the BreadBot and how it meets many consumer needs.

“The Mini Bakery, the first of its kind, is pioneering a fully automated way to bake bread. It mixes, forms, proofs, bakes and cools bread all on its own. From autostart to notifying employees when bread needs to be sliced, the BreadBot is packed full of features and has the potential to revolutionise the bread industry as we know it. It’s the first time that the bread-baking process has been fully automated from scratch to complete loaf. And as it’s a transparent machine, the process is made completely visible. Customers can watch how the bread starts from basic ingredients and ends up as a complete loaf.”

How the BreadBot caters to the need for ultimate convenience and freshness

Founded for convenience reasons
The idea of a fully automatic bread bakery arose more than 20 years ago. The son of one of Wilkinson’s acquaintances, who had a job at a bakery, had to start work at the crack of dawn to make sure the customers would have fresh bread for breakfast. “Can’t this be fully automated?” he implored one day. His father worked on the idea for years, ultimately asking the Wilkinson family to take over the project as his health was failing. Randall Wilkinson: “It turned out that this project needed a lot of off-the-shelf technology, like sensors for example. Back then, these tools weren’t available, so the project was put on hold for nearly a decade. Now these technologies do exist, we restarted the project, and the Mini Bakery was brought onto the market earlier this year.”

Ultimate convenience versus freshness
The Taste Tomorrow survey revealed nine global key trends. One of these is ultimate convenience: consumers want it all, and they want it now. But they also want freshness, and they want next level experiences. How does the BreadBot respond to these needs? Wilkinson: “What people are looking for is bread that is freshly baked. That's why stores are baking off frozen bread, so that the aroma of the baking fills the store. But the trade-off is that the freezing and time taken for the process, makes the bread more susceptible to going stale. If you want to buy bread at the end of the day, it already lacks a certain freshness.”

The most obvious way to achieve ultimate freshness is to bake the bread yourself, but this is not always very convenient, considering the available skilled labour and costs. “The BreadBot takes this work off your hands; you get the complete experience of fresh bread, but without having to do the work. And it makes it possible for consumers to buy bread fresh from the oven at any time of the day, even in the late afternoon.”

How the BreadBot caters to the need for ultimate convenience and freshness

Fresh bread all day long
The Mini Bakery is a continuous chain that supplies the store and its customers with fresh bread at every moment of the day. “Each loaf takes 96 minutes to bake. Every 6 minutes a new loaf starts its journey, so that’s 10 loaves per hour. Of course, that’s not enough for a big retailer. But we don’t expect the Mini Bakery to ever take over the full production. There will always be a demand for artisan loaves and other bread types like French baguettes and round loaves, as well as Danish pastries and the like. The Mini Bakery only produces pan loaves at this point. This is the most sold bread in the US, but we expect pan loaves to become more dominant in other countries as well. There’s a supermarket chain in France that wants to test it in 2020. They have no tradition of pan loaves, but can sense an opportunity. They expect the freshness will win a lot of customers, and it also brings them convenience as a retailer.”

Unique asset for stores
There’s a lot of interest, and companies that have already tested the BreadBot are positive. “We delivered the early units to the US Navy, and they’re now evaluating them for on-ship uses. We’re also currently testing with Stop & Shop, a part of Ahold Delhaize with 450 stores, and with other stores as well. As the results have been positive so far, we’re now putting our efforts into scaling up production.”

When asked why retailers are so positive about the BreadBot, Wilkinson is quite clear: “The Mini Bakery provides the experience of fresh bread and diffuses a lovely baking aroma. Customers smell the bread, and can watch it start as flour and end up as a complete loaf. They appreciate the experience and the transparency of the process. Consumers want freshness, and a pan loaf doesn’t get any fresher than this, as they can pick it up one hour after it’s baked! They can also see that the bread doesn’t need preservatives. They trust the bread to be healthy and clean label, because they’ve seen it being produced from just flour. And additionally, they can see that the bread doesn’t need trucks for transport to stores; dry ingredients are the only items shipped. Combined with the minimization of waste – the number of loaves baked can be tailored to daily demand – makes this a planet-proof way of producing bread.”

How the BreadBot caters to the need for ultimate convenience and freshness

Convenience for both consumers and retailers
Producing bread locally at every time of the day is not only very convenient for consumers, but is a welcome development for retailers as well. Until now, doing so has been a challenge, as many stores are short on labour. But if a robot is doing the job, that is no longer an issue. What's more, the Breadbot can be tailored to fluctuating demands at different times of the day. If you have very few bread-buying customers between 2 and 3 pm, for example, you can schedule the BreadBot to make only 3 loaves in that hour. It’s also possible to adapt the flour. Stores can make a schedule: pick up fresh wholegrain bread between 8 and 10 am, rye bread between 10 am and 12, spelt bread between 12 and 2 pm, etc.

Adapting to the changing needs of consumers
Wilkinson believes that the need for convenience and the need for goods to be adapted to personal requirements will keep growing in the coming years. “In the age of industrialisation, production got centralised in big factories as much as possible. Nowadays, things are moving back out, getting decentralised, happening closer to the consumer and getting increasingly customized. It’s now about producing what the customer wants to buy, rather than what the producer wants to sell. This move to the edge is inevitable if you want to create ultimate convenience. And the BreadBot is part of this move to the edge.”

Ultimate convenience with the BreadBot
As the BreadBot makes it possible to get fresh bread at any time of the day, it already delivers a lot of convenience. Wilkinson expects this to increase in the future. “Low-salt, low-sugar, all sorts of bread will become available. With the next-generation BreadBots, I expect it to be possible to order customized bread via your smartphone: ‘1 wholegrain loaf with cranberries, and 1 multigrain loaf with walnuts, both sliced please, and I want to pick them up at 4 pm’.” So BreadBot becomes an opportunity for retailers to provide more customized bread with ultimate freshness, which customers can pick up at the time that suits them best.”

Are you curious to learn more about ultimate convenience? Discover all about it in the ultimate convenience trend explanation, or discover 6 opportunities to buy healthy food in an ultimately convenient way.

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