- Aliso Viejo, California-based UST Global, a "frictionless" checkout technology provider, has partnered with Georgia grocery startup Nourish + Bloom Market to launch an autonomous store concept whose founders aim to open more than 500 locations, according to a Tuesday press release.
- The first Nourish + Bloom location, an approximately 1,500-square-foot store equipped with computer vision cameras and robotic delivery vehicles, opened on Jan. 21 in Fayetteville, Georgia, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
- The new automated grocery store reflects rising interest among retailers in deploying cashierless systems as they focus on speed and convenience.
Nourish + Bloom's founders have gone all-in on developing a technology-laden grocery shopping experience designed to get customers in and out without the need to stop at a checkout station.
The new store, located in Fayetteville and open 24 hours a day, processes transactions using computer vision equipment in tandem with artificial intelligence-based voice and gesture technology that can speed up the checkout process by a factor of three, UST general manager of emerging technology Subhodip Bandyopadhyay said in the release. UST also provides the mobile app customers use to pay for purchases.
Nourish + Bloom also offers delivery service using robotic vehicles supplied by last-mile logistics company Daxbot. That startup, which is based in Philomath, Oregon, and raising investments through a crowdfunding campaign, has developed a unit that can travel up to 10 miles at 4 mph and has a temperature-controlled cargo space.
Nourish + Bloom, which says it is the first African American-owned autonomous grocery store in the world, carries approximately 1,500 SKUs across an assortment of produce, meats, baked items, dairy products and ready-to-eat meals. The store also includes a bistro that sells freshly prepared items like salads, sandwiches and rice bowls, and prioritizes local suppliers to save fuel, according to the press release.
The store features a technology UST calls Cold Truth that monitors food temperatures at the shelf level. In addition, Nourish + Bloom relies on automated product-recognition equipment from Australia-based Shekel Brainweigh and uses 3D lidar technology from Hitachi Vantara, a division of Japanese technology company Hitachi, to link items and customers' shopping carts.
Nourish + Bloom's founders are raising money from investors and will be looking at potential sites for additional stores in Atlanta, Florida and Texas in the coming months, TechCrunch reported.
The company joins a growing number of retailers that have launched frictionless stores in recent years. Those companies include Amazon, which has installed its Just Walk Out system in Amazon Fresh supermarkets and Amazon Go convenience stores, and Giant Eagle, which runs several convenience stores in the Pittsburgh area equipped with computer vision technology from Grabango.
Convenience store chain Circle K also has added systems at some stores in Arizona that let customers walk out without visiting a checkout counter in a partnership with Grabango and computer vision developer Standard AI.