- Southeastern Grocers has set out to “reinvent” retail ice and ice manufacturing with a new ice micro-factory, according to a Tuesday announcement.
- The autonomous micro-factory, operated through a partnership with Relocalize, uses robotics for all of the production labor and aims to lessen middle-mile logistics and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water waste and plastic pollution. With the partnership, the grocer also introduced Party Cubes, a plastic-negative, packaged ice that is made on-demand at the new micro-factory, according to the press release.
- These efforts expand on other initiatives Southeastern Grocers has in place to find sustainable packaging solutions, including for its private label brand.
The autonomous ice micro-factory debuted at the grocer’s Jacksonville distribution center, located at 15500 W. Beaver St., with a ceremonious 200-pound ice ribbon cutting that was performed with a chainsaw.
The micro-factory is primarily managed by an artificial intelligence-powered software platform in addition to relying on robotics for all of the production labor, which allows for the grocery company to scale production while also creating waste-reduction solutions “throughout the full lifecycle of the product,” per the press release. The announcement also notes this approach comes at a lower economic cost as well as a lower environmental cost.
“Our partnership with Relocalize meets at the intersection of sustainability and innovation and provides a unique opportunity to offer our customers better ice, in a better package, at a better price – that’s also better for the planet,” Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of the grocery company, said in a statement.
Making Party Cubes produces zero water waste — compared to 50% of waste normally created — and lessens trucking carbon dioxide emissions by 90%.
The product is also cheaper for consumers compared to traditional bagged ice and comes in smaller, easier-to-store, leak-proof packaging made of recycle-ready material, per the announcement.
For every one pound of plastic used in Party Cubes’ packaging, Relocalize will remove and recycle two pounds of ocean plastic.
In addition to its ice partnership with Relocalize, Southeastern Grocers’ said it would continue to increase packaging sustainability surrounding its private label. These efforts, announced in April 2022, include making all packaging reusable, recyclable or industrially compostable; eliminating the use of polystyrene; and including an average of 30% post-consumer recycled material in private brand packaging. The grocer aims to meet these goals by the end of 2028.
In the ice announcement, the grocery company noted it has aligned its ESG goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which covers industry, innovation and infrastructure as well as responsible production and consumption.