Ahold Delhaize announced today that it is building out an automated fulfillment center in Philadelphia (hat tip to Winsight Grocery Business). When completed, this facility will be able to fulfill 15,000 online delivery orders a week.
This new fulfillment pilot will be powered by Peapod Digital Labs, Ahold Delhaize’s in-house e-commerce engine, and offered to customers of the Giant Co. market. Ahold Delhaize is also working with Swisslog’s AutoStore for the robotics and software systems for the automated fulfillment center.
This is not Ahold’s first trip to the robotic fulfillment center rodeo. The company owns a majority stake in FreshDirect, which is using Fabric for a Washington D.C.-area fulfillment center. And in 2018, the company announced it was working with Takeoff Technologies to create a number of micro-fulfillment centers for its retail brands including Stop & Shop, Food Lion and Giant Food. According to Winsight, Ahold said today more micro-fulfillment pilots are forthcoming.
Ahold Delhaize’s expanded use of automation is no surprise. Grocery e-commerce had a banner year in 2020, thanks in large part to the pandemic keeping people at home. Online grocery is expected to remain sticky with consumers even after the pandemic recedes with some projecting online grocery taking up 21.5 percent of total grocery sales by 2025.
As such, grocery retailers are investing in new ways of getting people their food faster. Kroger is building out a series of Ocado-powered automated fulfillment centers across the U.S. Walmart is planning to implement dozens of automated micro-fulfillment centers at its stores. And Albertsons is expanding the use of automated fulfillment as well.
Most of these, however have been announcements. We’ll need to watch this space in the coming months to see if automated fulfillment centers truly deliver on their promise of cost-effective, increased efficiency.