Packaging gets smart

Plastic waste is a growing crisis. Half of all plastic ever made has only been created since 2002 with 40% being for single use. The worst part is that only 16% of plastic is recycled. This means that we are rapidly escalating the amount of plastic in the world and recycling has not proven to be an effective solution.

This is particularly significant as we are in Plastic Free July.  This global movement focuses on taking a stand against single use plastics so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities.

Digital transformation address

While consumers are demanding smarter solutions and less packaging, retailers and brands are struggling to find the way forward. DYDX, a leading digital transformation consultancy and Smollan, a leading retail solutions company, partnered with Nude Food, SA’s leading zero-waste retailer, to prototype the latest designs of their smart dispensers in the Nude Food store. The zero-waste retailer provides a 100% packaging free environment and has been growing rapidly in line with global demand for more environmentally conscious retail.

The smart dispenser concept addresses not only the issue of packaging waste but allows shoppers the ability to purchase as much or as little of a product as they desire through smart dispensing technology – creating sustainable solutions which benefit retailers, consumers, FMCG product manufacturers and the environment. Consumers are enabled to purchase the quantity they need and take their purchases away in their own container or will be able to purchase a reusable container. Through IoT based technology, the smart dispenser shows their purchase cost as they dispense on a screen. The same sensors provide real time stock levels to both the store and the manufacturer, simplifying restocking and distribution.

The smart dispensers allow retailers to offer their customers a packaging free purchasing experience at scale, while at the same time it aims to increase the effectiveness of their floor space through vertical stacking and real-time stock levels for each dispenser. FMCG manufacturers can reduce their packaging costs by being able to ship in bulk to retailers and use the data generated by the smart dispenser to effectively manage re-ordering and distribution.

“First developed for the informal market, where smart dispensing can increase affordability and sales visibility, we are excited about the concept’s scalability for formal retail too. If you can imagine how the customer experience and supply chain operations change when you have a store with hundreds of smart dispensers, it’s profoundly disruptive.” says Rudi Nienaber, Innovation Executive at Smollan.

The smart dispensers were developed in partnership between Smollan and DYDX. “The challenge with producing these devices is in creating a solution that is both user-centric whilst incorporating electronic, mechanical and data related elements.

“It is the kind of innovation and design challenge we love taking on because it’s something that must be simple when it’s used but is a complicated system behind the scenes. There are lots of additional improvements that we will make which will enable a connected, eco-friendly store of the future.” says Nevo Hadas, partner at DYDX.

Michael Smollan, Chief Growth and Innovation officer says, “Innovation is seldom easy. We started this project placing positive social impact as a non-negotiable success criterion alongside profitability. This allowed us to come up with different ideas because we looked in different places for the solutions. Smart dispensers will have a massive benefit for retailers, FMCG brands, consumers, and the environment. It speaks to our path to purpose of building a business that deserves to last and one that delivers services that have a positive impact on communities. All the while actively seeking out alternate practices, partnerships and solutions that protect our planet and create virtuous cycles.”

This innovative concept not only gives the consumer control over their product quantities while effectively streamlining the manufacturing, re-stocking, and distribution processes, it brings a new level of environmental awareness to the shopper.  In this way, the shopper is enabled to actively impact on the world, making conservation a part of their daily lives, far beyond the parameters of Plastic Free July.