Packaging has defined how modern and informal retail works. The entire system is centred around packaging, from displays, pricing, shelving, distribution, returns and more. Consumer purchasing behaviour, the way we promote goods (2 for 1), how check-out works, all link back to packaged goods as the “atoms” of modern retail. So with plastic waste and single-use packaging being responsible for 40% of all plastic production, it’s a systemic challenge to make significant change. Consumers are demanding smarter solutions and less packaging, but retailers and brands are struggling to find the way forward because it is a complex system, not just a single point solution.

First developed for the informal market, where smart dispensing can increase affordability and food safety, we were excited about the ideas potential scalability at formal retail too (read more about our experience in the informal market here).

The smart dispenser concept provides an insight into the future of retail. They 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, use a disposable paper bag or purchase a 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. 

If you can imagine how the customer shopping experience, payment experience and retail back-end systems change when you have a store with 300 or more smart dispensers for all dry goods (powders, grains, single purchase items) and liquids, it is a profoundly disruptive idea – like ordering a car on your smartphone was 10 years ago.

The smart dispensers allow retailers to offer their customers a packaging-free purchasing experience at scale, while at the same time increasing the effectiveness of their floor space through vertical stacking and real-time stock levels per 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 manage re-ordering and distribution more effectively.

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