Here's how the new Smart Bakery Box is steering in-store baking toward the future
by Jennifer Meyer
Self-service baking stations are standard in supermarkets and discount stores. Customers appreciate the freshly baked treats that are created right before their eyes. However, this offer also brings challenges. After all, staffing is often tight and buying patterns vary significantly depending on the day of the week and time of day.
The solution? The Smart Bakery Box, an AI-controlled system developed in collaboration between the shopfitter umdasch and digitalization expert Shop-IQ. It was presented at EuroShop 2023.
In-store baking is a retail concept in which products such as bread, rolls and pastries are baked in the store – often even directly on the sales floor. This makes it possible to offer fresh baked goods that are prepared immediately before sale. In-store baking is used in both supermarkets and bakeries to attract customers – for example, through the aroma. In retail the prices for the goods are generally lower than in specialized bakeries.
"Energy savings, staff shortages, poor employee qualifications, food waste and, increasingly, the issue of freshness are the driving forces of the future," emphasizes David Holzwarth, a member of the management team at Shop-IQ. "Systematically ensuring in-store freshness in in-store baking will be the all-defining issue. Systems will be measured on not only predicting when and where which product is needed, but on taking the very extensive and experience-based planning processes off the staff's hands when it comes to the baking plan."
AI links inventory information, picking history and weather
Until now – according to the manufacturers – baking stations produced according to rigid baking schedules, regardless of actual demand. With the Smart Bakery Box, this is changing. The "Process" module from Shop-IQ enables demand-oriented production on site. This keeps baked goods fresh and available in the right quantities, reduces food waste, and optimizes in-store baking processes. The secret of this system lies in linking real-time information on stock levels and withdrawal history with other relevant data, such as the current weather. In addition, a weighing system is integrated into the Smart Bakery Box's removal compartments, enabling real-time inventory management.
The Food Industry Association (FMI) finds in its inaugural Power of In-Store Bakery 2022: Consumer engagement with in-store bakery items is very high with 95 % of shoppers eating them at least occasionally and 63 % doing so weekly.
Technology controls the entire baking process, optimizes resources, and operates ovens efficiently. A digital baking plan is based on minimum stock levels and expected sales figures. Both automatic proofers and ovens are controlled automatically. Products that can no longer be sold are detected thanks to a freshness timer, and fresh baked goods continue to be produced only until the minimum stock level is reached.
According to the manufacturer, the Smart Bakery Box can be integrated into existing in-store baking, checkout and merchandise management systems without major effort. This could make the production of products at baking stations smarter, more efficient and more sustainable.