- Schnuck Markets plans to install technology-driven salad bars designed by Picadeli of Sweden in 22 supermarkets under its Schnucks and Eatwell banners in Missouri and Illinois, executives of the companies said in interviews with Grocery Dive.
- The Midwestern retailer debuted the first of the self-service stations last Wednesday at a Schnucks store in Eureka, Missouri, and will open two more this week at Schnucks locations in the Missouri communities of Crestwood and Town and Country, according to Geoff Wexler, vice president of deli and prepared foods for the grocery chain.
- Schnucks is already considering expanding its partnership with Picadeli and could bring the fresh food concept to as many as 80% of its 114 stores, Wexler said.
Schnucks began initial discussions with Picadeli’s licensee about potentially bringing the company’s futuristic equipment to its stores about two years ago, but put the idea on hold until December, shortly after it began to gradually reintroduce traditional salad bars as the pandemic loosened its grip, Wexler said.
The grocer plans during the coming weeks to replace all of the 16 legacy salad bars it brought back with units supplied by Picadeli U.S., which use artificial intelligence to track sales patterns and determine when to order products to maintain freshness, Wexler said. The modular stations also feature covers that stay closed except when customers take items, in order to keep cold air from escaping; hanging utensils to prevent handles from contacting food; and digital tags with descriptions of each product.
“When you compare them side by side, the open salad bar tends to dehydrate product. It tends to leave it exposed to potential airborne bacteria. Whereas this concept has a unique airflow” that keeps food from deteriorating, said Wexler, adding that shoppers quickly re-embraced salad bars when Schnucks brought them back.
Picadeli owns and maintains the salad bars in addition to providing all of the food they stock.
Because the Picadeli process offers more control, “you have faster turns, the quality is better and you have less waste, and it all comes down to the waste,” Wexler said.
Schnucks is the third U.S. grocery chain to roll out salad bars from Picadeli. Albertsons became the first supermarket operator in the country to install the units in December 2021 and currently has the units in 17 Safeway, Kings Food Markets and Acme locations in Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to Picadeli. Picadeli followed its arrangement with a three-store pilot with Ahold Delhaize banner The Giant Company, said Patrik Hellstrand, CEO of Picadeli U.S.
A commissary at Fort Belvoir in Virginia and a Glatfelter Insurance Group office in York, Pennsylvania, also have Picaldeli stations on site, Hellstrand said.
Picadeli announced plans to enter the U.S. market in early 2021, when the salad bar concept was already operating in about 2,000 European grocery stores.
Hellstrand and a partner, former McDonald’s and Chipotle executive Mats Lederhausen, together own a stake in Picadeli U.S. through Hejgreens, a holding company they control. Greenfood, a Swedish food company that is part of investment firm Nordic Capital and runs Picadeli’s European operations, is Hejgreens’ partner in the joint venture.
Hellstrand said Picadeli U.S. plans to continue expanding in the United States and is in talks with Albertsons about bringing its salad bars to more locations.
“When we came into this business, we thought that we could only execute well” in the highest-volume stores, Hellstrand said. “We've learned that our break-even … is much much, much lower than we thought. We can actually execute profitably for the retailer in about 80% of their stores.”