Automation and partial automation are increasingly vital for smaller wholesale and retail bakeries, points out Ashley Robertson, director, global marketing, Corbion, Lenexa, Kansas. “They offer efficiency by automating repetitive tasks like dough mixing or shaping, freeing up time for bakers to focus on creative aspects. Consistency, a crucial factor in baking, can be achieved through automation, ensuring uniform size, weight, and shape of products,” she explains.

Inventory management and forecasting are also improved, as automated systems can track sales and inventory in real time, allowing bakeries to optimize their production schedule, reduce waste, and keep popular items available, Robertson says.

“Although there is an initial investment for automated equipment, long-term savings can be realized through increased productivity, reduced labor costs, and minimized waste. While the art of baking still requires a human touch, automation can provide smaller bakeries with the necessary edge to scale and compete in a demanding market. Therefore, it is about finding the right balance, preserving the unique charm of small-scale baking, and capitalizing on the benefits of modern technology.”

On the equipment front, Mike McCann, packaging specialist for Reiser, Canton, Massachusetts, points out that changes can be many, from a “new fresher-looking” market appeal.

“Our Reiser horizontal form/fill/seal packaging machines and our Ross tray seal modified atmosphere packaging machines already have the existing technology and are well proven with many successful installations to produce very modern, ‘fresh appearing’ packages that enhance sales and the ability to meet this evolving change,” he explains.

The packages can be made with readily available materials, fancy printed graphics, labels, colored films, or clear films to showcase the product to the consumer. They are made for product and consumer safety improvements.

All packages are fully and hermetically sealed (unlike most other package styles), and deliver new presentation of the products to consumers, to product shelf-life and quality improvements.

The packages can be made with peel/seal opening features, compartmentalized packages allowing you to, for example, put a 1-pound loaf in three compartments of one-third pound, all individually sealed, for end user convenience and freshness, McCann says. The end result translates to possible lowering of spoilage/returns.

These packages allow an entirely new possibility in improving order entry and control per store location, he explains.

“If your current pack cannot change its look/presentation for whatever reason, our machines can produce a ‘shipper tray size bulk pack’ with MAP to extend your shelf-life and product safety, and just rely on store level stocking onto the shelf from the back room,” McCann says. “This alone can have a very big impact on stocking, spoilage reduction, product freshness, and safety.”

At the same time, bakers would have the ability to grow into individual packs of MAP items, by adding machine tooling as it grows. This could be ideal for smaller local bakeries as they grow and expand, backed by this technology in “the back room.”

Other benefits lead to distribution planning and savings/improvements in out-of-stock performance at store level.

There are significant savings in delivery route planning, stock checks, and spoilage levels can easily be gained through simple daily (or more frequent) electronic communication between the bakery team and the store teams, McCann explains.

“Automation opportunities exist in the pack-off ends of our lines, (filling the boxes/trays /or bulk size package), in higher volume lines, loading individual bakery items (bagels, pizzas, muffins, etc.) into the MAP packages,” he says.

Autonomous shopping

New technology is being developed to adapt to the changing ways that consumers shop for fresh bakery and other fresh foods.

Hobart recently introduced its new FreshServe™ Self-Serve Scale – the latest scale solution for retail self-serve and in-store order fulfillment. FreshServe is a fully integrated scale, stand, and printer for use in retail grocery stores and is a unique solution to meet increasing demand for autonomous shopping in fresh and bulk-food departments. 

Easy to use and maintain, shoppers will appreciate the simplicity of the scale, enhancing their shopping experience and saving time at check out. Pickers can quickly fulfill item requirements ensuring orders for pick-up and delivery are accurate and completed on time. The FreshServe Scale is suitable for a variety of applications and a fresh and intuitive user interface makes the scale simple to use and engaging to customers.

This new FreshServe Scale is designed for simplicity.  Consumers expect more autonomy and convenience when they visit the grocery store, and the FreshServe scale delivers that enhanced shopping experience.

“We have designed this new FreshServe Scale with the utmost flexibility supporting die cut or linerless labels, a large label roll capacity and allowing for customization of keys and search functionality,” said Hobart product line manager of weigh wrap Sheila Campbell. “Its unique configurability makes it a highly advanced self-service solution saving shoppers time and enriching the overall consumer experience all while making the grocer’s job easier and more efficient as well.”

The FreshServe Scale is designed to accommodate a variety of store areas and applications and has three available sizes which make it flexible and easy to use in multiple locations such as fresh produce, bulk foods, specialty bulk foods, salad bars, bagel kiosks and bulk candy and nuts.

Several applications include:

Set up as a traditional self-service scale to search PLUs, and weigh and label produce, reducing time at the checkout.

Integrate with in-store scan & go programs - customers scan the barcode or QR code into their store app for dynamic scan & go shopping.

Dedicate a scale to in-house pickers fulfilling curbside pick-up and delivery orders.

Position a scale near the self-check out to eliminate the need for auxiliary scales at the check-out kiosk.

The tall version of the scale is well suited for most produce departments, placed intentionally throughout the department for simple shopper or picker use. The grocer can place several scales throughout the department for convenient use and speeding up the shopping process.

A mid-sized shorter configuration designed to meet ADA height requirements, is customized for accessibility, and can be placed strategically in the department, ensuring unobstructed access for all shoppers. 

A smaller tabletop version is designed for placement on an auxiliary stand in the produce or bulk foods area, typically situated next to display tables for instinctive shopper access and use.

All sizes have a sturdy base to ensure stability in high traffic areas and the large tiltable touchscreen has an intuitive user interface to engage customers and ensure simple navigation.  Its polycarbonate bowl is corrosion resistant and removeable for easy cleaning, and compartment doors on the unit allow for easy access to the printer chamber and additional storage. 

Designed, constructed, and supported in the United States, the FreshServe Scale has features designed for convenience, flexibility and ease-of-use such as:

Flexibility – The scale will accept die cut or linerless labels providing customers the flexibility to use either type of label with one device.

Reduce Downtime – The scale is designed to accept a large label roll extending the usable time between changes.

Ease-of-Use – A fresh and intuitive user interface, the FreshServe scale is engaging and simple for customers to use.

Configurability – With options for Image Recognition, ValueMax™ level compensation, and a Barcode Scanner, retailers can customize the scale features to best suit their business model.

Quality – The robust design and high-quality materials ensures the scale is suitable for the harsh retail environment.


On the equipment front, numerous developments are driving change in addressing environmental issues, as well as new technology.

Unifiller Systems Inc., a global leader in portioning equipment and a subsidiary of the Linxis Group of Companies, introduced their new Total Care by Unifiller product that includes the app and Bluetooth-enabled device.

"Total Care by Unifiller" is a simple plug-and-play unit that offers Unifiller customers long-term advantages at a minimal cost. Designed by Unifiller's R&D team, the Bluetooth device syncs with any Unifiller machine to transmit equipment usage information to a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop running the app. Customers can then upload, store, and track content on a Unifiller-specific framework.

“The app will revolutionize how Unifiller customers interact with their equipment. Its cloud connectivity, data tracking, easy recipe management, and predictive maintenance will minimize downtime and ensure machines are ready for crucial production times,” explains Sonia Bal, director of global marketing at Unifiller Systems.

Derek Lanoville, product development technologist at Unifiller, explains that “thanks to product's facilitation of easy machine set-up, process documentation, employee training, recipe storage, and rapid parts ordering, customers can future-proof themselves against lost productivity during periods of staff turnover or equipment downtime."

In other developments, Unifiller Systems Inc., introduced the launch of the Electro-Mate: an automated cake shell border decorating system intended to help bakeries with growing production volumes boost productivity.  

The Electro-Mate is compatible with the Deco-Mate, making it the perfect addition for Unifiller customers who wish to expand the Deco-Mate’s applications or for an intuitive interface to simplify operator use. Its onboard computer enables operators to fine-tune settings and save recipes, allowing for faster machine setup, consistent results, and minimal training.

“Deco-Mate with Electro-Mate automates the shell bordering of round and sheet cakes for easier application, without injury or strain to the worker,” Bal says. “Automated equipment, especially machines designed specifically with ergonomics in mind, are an excellent solution for protecting businesses from labor shortages that result from employees working in discomfort and sustaining injuries, if not burnout. The Decomate with Electro-Mate automates the process of applying borders to cakes by eliminating the need to repeatedly squeeze a pastry bag."

With the Electro-Mate, bakeries can significantly save time, reduce waste, and minimize the risk of employee injuries while boosting cake decorating productivity.

Traveling hopper system

Other companies are delivering technological and efficiency improvements.

The MONO Epsilon tabletop depositor features a unique front-loading design that makes placement in tight quarters a breeze. The Epsilon features a fully programmable touchscreen, a traveling hopper system, a large hopper capacity, and a pour-through hopper lid for seamless production. 

The Epsilon is suitable for various products, including macarons, eclairs, pate a choux, sheet cakes, cupcakes, meringues, brownies, and more. The Epsilon’s unique Traveling Hopper System removes the need for a conveyor belt which means trays can be loaded and unloaded in the most ergonomically efficient way – directly from the front of the machine.

The MONO Epsilon tabletop confectionery depositor includes the following standard features that include compact design, which requires significantly less operating space compared to traditional machines, utilizing only 11 square feet of space. The machine is also able to fit through a standard doorway.

The Traveling Hopper System helps reduce the amount of space required by the depositor. And the ergonomic front-loading system is designed to help reduce operator strain and increase efficiency, the hopper is also at a lower height to help facilitate a more comfortable filling process.

Store multiple production recipes (up to 96 different programs) for quick product recall and streamlined production processes when changing between products. Machine is preprogrammed with up to 15 different languages.

Energy initiatives

Sysco Corporation, the world’s largest food distributor, recently unveiled its vision for the Riverside Electric Vehicle Hub, which will transform the company’s distribution center into the focal point of its electrified fleet. One of the first electric vehicle hubs of its kind in the world, the Riverside project is a foundational step toward Sysco’s goal to reduce its direct emissions by 27.5% and add 2,800 electric trucks to its U.S. fleet by 2030.

Currently, Sysco operates eleven Freightliner battery electric eCascadia tractors at its Riverside facility and expects to deploy 20 total by summer 2023. Once completed, the facility’s currently planned EV infrastructure will include:

40 dual port DC fast-charging stations in support of

40 Electric, Class-8 vehicles, and

40 electric refrigerated trailers.

To accommodate the energy demands of this growing fleet, the Riverside site will also feature 4 MWh of battery storage and will increase its solar power generation by an additional 1.5 MW.

“We are excited to showcase Sysco’s work to build our first Electric Vehicle Hub at our Riverside, CA site,” said Marie Robinson, Sysco’s chief supply chain officer. “This is a massive collaborative effort that has required years of planning. We’re grateful to our many partners on this journey for their vision, innovation and leadership in bringing the transportation and infrastructure technology to market to support this project.”

Other developments

PAC Machinery (PAC) just announced plans for the PACK EXPO LAS VEGAS 2023 show exhibit featuring exciting new machinery and new sustainable curbside recyclable paper materials. PAC showcases one of the largest ranges of equipment for flexible packaging at this show and is planning to exhibit automatic baggers, shrink wrappers, flow wrappers, vacuum sealers, bag sealers, and a large variety of bags and materials (including new sustainable packaging options).

Pack Expo is held at the Las Vegas Convention Center Sept. 11-13, 2023, and is produced by PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, who is promoting the show as “on pace to be the largest, most comprehensive show since its inception.”

“We are excited to show our FW 650SI Servo Box Motion Inverted Flow Wrapper that makes bags to product length at high speed (up to 80 cycles/min) with our new Curbside, Recyclable Paper,” said Greg Berguig, vice president, PAC Machinery. “This wrapper can accommodate products up to 12” wide or 8” high, can print directly on the package or on a label with the thermal transfer printer, and is ideal for apparel and other soft, delicate products packaged with a continuous motion in our new sustainable paper packaging.”