Smartfill’s Next-Generation Technology Makes Packageless Retail a Reality

At Smartfill, we are thrilled to announce the release of two groundbreaking dispenser models designed to combat household plastic and packaging waste while enhancing consumer affordability, especially in developing markets.

Our newest innovation, a shampoo and body wash dispenser co-developed with Transform, Unilever, and BOPinc, is set to revolutionize low-income markets by reducing sachet usage. This cutting-edge design, available as an open-source project, can be produced for under $50 per product dispensed using readily available electronic components. This unprecedented industry-wide initiative aims to significantly lower the production costs of dispensing units, historically a costly endeavor. The dispensers are now advancing to their second trial phase in Bangladesh, in collaboration with Unilever, in small, informal stores.

We are also excited to unveil a new version of our dry food dispenser, featuring two significant design innovations. Enhanced user experience touches make it even easier for consumers to select the precise quantity they want to dispense and fill a paper bag or container with nuts, grains or powders. The dispenser weighs the amount and print the barcode once completed.

Our new design facilitates a large-scale circular bulk packaging model by integrating standardized food-safe containers as product hoppers. These hoppers can be refilled at the manufacturer and shipped to retailers easily. In line with our open-innovation model, these hoppers utilize existing market plastic containers from multiple suppliers, ensuring ease of stacking and transportation.

Our technology advancements are built on numerous pilots, including partnerships with Unilever in Kenya for dispensing Sunlight washing powder, with SPAR in South Africa for dispensing rice, sugar, coffee granules, and coffee creamer, and with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in London for dispensing chocolate-covered almonds, cashews, and muesli. These pilots have been instrumental in refining our technology through real-world feedback.

“With four years of R&D under our belt and learnings from extensive pilots, we have built a powerful technology platform that enables rapid innovation,” says Marc Wetselaar, COO of Smartfill. “We did more than 16,000 customer transactions in 2023 across a range of products and retail environments, enabling us to hone our products with real-world feedback.” 

Our IoT-powered smart dispensers connect to the Smartfill packageless stock management platform, giving manufacturers and retailers powerful real-world data, no matter where the dispensers are located. This informs both logistics and marketing. 

Addressing food affordability in developing markets is a core goal for us at Smartfill. By using smart dispensing technology, manufacturers and retailers meet a growing consumer need for smaller purchase sizes, without having to incur the additional cost of new packaging lines.

“We approached our technology with the mindset to scale, so our focus is on making the hardware and operating costs as cheap as possible,” says Smartfill CEO Nevo Hadas. “We understand that the dispensers have to achieve a positive business case, and this comes from three areas. Firstly, we increase sales because we meet the consumer demand for affordability.  Secondly, we increase margins as retailers and manufacturers are dealing in bulk, but charging small package prices. We increase brand market share. Up to 40% of repeat purchasers in our trials were infrequent purchasers of the product before.” 

“Packaging is an industrial age concept that is polluting our planet. It’s only going to get more expensive, as greater responsibility is placed on manufacturers. Recycling cannot fix the problem. In some instances the packaging is more expensive than the materials inside – which doesn’t make sense. By re-imagining retail to have “packaging” at the edge (retail) versus at the centre (manufacturing), the entire system changes. Many costs that go into packaging and logistics are avoided, adding value to manufacturers, retailers and consumers,” says Hadas.

Hadas emphasises the need for rapid, widespread adoption of these solutions. “The time for manufacturers, brands and retailers to move to packageless retail is now. The technology is available, the business case is compelling and the environmental imperatives are undeniable. Customers want it, and our planet needs it.  It takes brave and future-facing organisations to embrace new technology, and lead the charge towards a more sustainable and responsible future.”


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