The best way to start a story about Alberts robot Smoothie Stations is with an anecdote Co-Founder and CTO Glenn Mathijssen told me. When asked why their company was called “Alberts,” he said that they were trying to bring intelligent solutions to the market. Which made them think of Albert Einstein and the famous photo of him sticking his tongue out. “We’re not Einsteins, but we’re Alberts,” he said.
You can see this smart yet playful approach imbued in Alberts Smoothie Station. The bright, colorful robotic vending machines found in Brussels, Belgium, have transparent fronts so you can see the fresh fruit and vegetables (no yogurts, milks, juices or other sugar-adding ingredients) that it will blend into a smoothie for you, on the spot.
Out of the box, the Alberts Smoothie Station has six menus, but you can customize them to your liking if you download their app. For instance, you can specify that you want more mango and less banana, or more vitamin C. Using a QR code in the app, a Smoothie Station can “recognize” you, and already know how to prepare your preferred drink. Each smoothie costs between €3 and €3.5 (roughly $4.00 USD), and you can pay with your credit card, or through the accompanying mobile app.
Additionally, Alberts gives users the options of connecting their calendars to its system, so the Smoothie Stations will know if you just exercised and can ping you with a suggestion for a thirst-quenching blend. Mathijssen said the company is looking at additional ways of connecting Smoothie Stations with devices like your phone or FitBit to automatically know who you are, and any activity you might have partaken in, but there are privacy considerations to address (GDPR, anyone?).
While Alberts makes smoothies, it is solely in the machine renting business. Their customers are existing food locations, like supermarkets or catering companies, who already have their own frozen food suppliers to keep each Smoothie Station stocked. The machines are self-cleaning, and only require someone on-site to make sure they don’t run out of any ingredients and address any maintenance issues. Each unit costs a location €495 a month, and Alberts gets a small percentage of every transaction.
Based in Brussels, Alberts has raised €675,000 (~$836,000), and has started looking for its Series A round. Right now, there are five Alberts Smoothie Stations around Brussels, with another five planned for release in Brussels and Antwerp. Mathijssen said that he is also fielding calls from “more than 50 countries” about potential franchise opportunities.
Alberts isn’t alone in rolling out robot smoothie servers. Just a few weeks ago, 6d bytes debuted its Blendid robot smoothie maker. However, Blendid is a larger installation and is more robot-like with its swiveling arm that prepares your smoothies.
If these automated smoothie-robots take off, and can whip up delicious drinks around the clock with a small footprint and no personnel, the days of Jamba Juice (as we know it) are numbered. It doesn’t take an Einstein to see that.