Stop & Shop has deployed a bread-making robot that enables customers to buy a warm loaf baked virtually on the spot.
The Stop & Shop store in Milford, Mass., now offers The Mini Bakery from Wilkinson Baking Co. Also known as “The Breadbot,” the glass-cased unit mixes, forms, proofs, bakes and cools 10 loaves of sandwich-style artisan bread per hour. Customers can see the entire process.
Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop said Thursday that it’s the first supermarket chain on the East Coast to feature The Mini Bakery, which it plans to roll out to more stores in the region after the pilot in Milford.
“We know that our customers want fresh, tasty and healthy food that’s good for them and for their families,” Stop & Shop category manager Michael Vachon said in a statement. “With The Mini Bakery, shoppers can see exactly what goes into their bread and feel confident that it’s made with wholesome ingredients.”
Each loaf made by the The Mini Bakery retails for $3.99. Because the bread is made and sold the same day, there’s no need for the artificial preservatives commonly found in on-shelf bread, Stop & Shop noted.
At the Stop & Shop store, the Breadbot is located in the bakery department. Varieties baked by self-service unit include white, wheat, whole wheat, nine-grain, sourdough and honey oat. Availability will vary based on demand.
Bread is made in The Mini Bakery as follows: Bakery department staff pour the bread mix into a hopper (which can hold enough for over 50 loaves), and the dry mix drops into a measuring chamber and then into a pot that mixes the dough. Every six minutes, a ball of dough falls out, is rolled, falls into a pan and rises as it moves through a proofing oven toward the baking oven. The process takes about 90 minutes for a fully baked loaf of bread.
As they’re made, the hot loaves drop into a basket that transfers them into the Breadbot’s cooling display case, which holds more than two dozen loaves. Customers use a touchscreen to retrieve a warm loaf and then bag it themselves. Bakery staff monitor the baking process via another touchscreen on the unit. (Click here to see video.)
Walla Walla, Wash.-based Wilkinson Baking Co. said The Mini Bakery operates up to a 24-hour duty cycle, produces a maximum of 235 loaves per day and requires about 30 minutes for daily cleaning. The Breadbot was unveiled publicly in January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
“Making the bread locally, right in the store with The Mini Bakery, has a very positive environmental effect,” according to Randall Wilkinson, CEO of Wilkinson Baking Co. “The fleets of delivery trucks and the fuel they use are reduced, since only dry ingredients need to be shipped. And because The Mini Bakery keeps track of its production, it’s able to predict how much bread it should bake in order to meet demand. Everything it bakes sells within hours. Nothing goes to waste.”