There’s an important new word emerging as an automated solution for baking – the bot.

From the BreadBot to the Baker-Bot, bots are here to stay – and, most important, handle repetitive tasks in the bakery business and provide consistent finished products.

Apex Motion Control's Baker-Bot can automate various aspects of many bakery items that include cookie production – from tray handling, decorating, and even cookie stamping. In addition, this system can integrate seamlessly with existing dough extruders, promoting productivity without disrupting current setups.

Cookie stamping and other repetitive tasks are handled with consistency and high efficiency with Baker-Bot, according to Jamie Bobyk, marketing manager for Apex Motion Control.

Many will start with tray handling when employing Baker-Bot and then move on to multiple tasks. The machine will handle a tray of eight cookies across each row – decorated, iced, and drizzled.

For further ease of use, Baker-Bot can handle custom recipes; one client has 92 SKUs.

“The ROI is within two years on average. If it’s quicker, it’s a bonus,” Bobyk says.

Problem solving

One central problem looming in the post-pandemic world involves workers who are quitting jobs at double the average than a normal period.

“How do we solve problems rather than eliminate workers,” urges Jonah Bliss, founder of Curbivore, a Los Angeles-based operation that was created out of a shared passion to help technologists, restaurateurs, retailers, local governments, and interested individuals navigate the challenges of the post-pandemic economy.

Panelists including Bliss who spoke at a technology session during the 2023 International Dairy Deli Bakery Association convention in Anaheim, California, brought forth numerous challenges and opportunities.

Sahil Sharma, chief operating officer for Coco., the California-based company specializing in food delivery robots, explained that Santa Monica is now filled with dozens of Coco bots delivering food and small packages directly to consumers. Fifty percent of deliveries are within a 1½-mile radius, he said. Coco travels straight from your kitchen to the customer’s home.

“You can’t walk around Santa Monica now without encountering one of these small robots on the sidewalk,” Sharma said with a smile. “We are seeing a lot of adoption from small businesses.”

What’s notable is that food packages are delivered 20% faster via Coca vs. regular couriers because nobody is waiting to carry about the delivery. The order is dispatched via Coca when it is ready to go.

“It is much cheaper and simpler than using a human carrier,” Sharma explains.  “Solutions must be super simple or else nobody is going to use it.”

Streamlining site operations

In California, Texas, and Florida, Coco partners with local merchants to help them cut costs, streamline site operations, and grow business. Cocos remain locked and insulated to protect food from contamination and quality degradation.  The vehicles are remotely operated by trained pilots.

Obviously weather conditions can be a prohibiting factor in their availability, given they cannot function in the snow.

In Houston, Rustika Café and Bakery’s original West U location is now offering contactless delivery through Coco. Once a customer within a two-mile radius of the café places an order through DoorDash, Coco will drive to the location and Rustika’s staff will load the completed order into the robot. Then, the customer will receive their order in 15 minutes or less. Rustika Café and Bakery will also integrate Coco’s delivery services on its new website for direct orders.

Founded by pastry chef Francis Reznick in 1994, Rustika Café and Bakery is a family-owned and operated establishment with five locations throughout the Houston area.

“We wanted to make it even easier for Houstonians to enjoy our Jewish-Mexican fusion favorites, and decadent desserts and pastries, so Coco was the perfect opportunity,” said chief executive officer Marco Reznick. “We look forward to our West U guests utilizing this new technology for more sustainable, convenient and affordable delivery.”

As part of Coco’s expansion into the Houston area, Rustika will mark the delivery service’s first café and bakery partnership in Houston. Inspired by cultural culinary experiences from across the globe that span generations, Rustika Café and Bakery serves delicious Jewish-Mexican fusion favorites such as Chilaquiles, Migas and Matzah Ball Soup, along with the traditional omelets, sandwiches, salads and more. Plus, guests can indulge in decadent cakes, cookies, pies, desserts, and pastries as the perfect treat after – or maybe even before – a great meal.

The BreadBot

Last October, Wilkinson Baking Company, creator of the world’s first fully automated commercial bread baking robot, announced the close of its fully subscribed $3 million seed round. The round was led by prominent Washington investor Ken Peterson of Columbia Ventures Corporation, along with Rich Product Ventures. Several angel investors also participated. Funds will primarily be used to build and deploy additional BreadBots.

Key features of the BreadBot include the following:

  • A fresh loaf is baked every 6 minutes.
  • Four ingredient hoppers can produce four varieties of bread throughout the day.
  • Fewer preservatives are necessary because the bread is truly fresh.
  • Customers can choose a hot loaf of bread just out of the oven or select fresh loaves that have been sliced and bagged.
  • Smart production throughout the day eliminates inventory issues such as out of stocks.

“I put a fully automated Wilkinson BreadBot in my store, stood back and watched 60 freshly baked loaves fly off the shelf,” said Dave Gordon, owner of Andy’s Market, according to Wilkinson Baking. “Customers love watching their loaf travel throughout the baking process, but it’s the aroma and taste of homemade bread that brings them back for more.”

In July 2022, Wilkinson Baking Company deployed their first commercial-ready BreadBot into Andy’s Market in College Place, Wash. This is the company’s first permanent deployment, moving beyond initial test deployments. The company is manufacturing and assembling additional BreadBots and expects to have 20 units deployed by early 2023.

“We are having engaging conversations with grocers who see our vision for changing the way bread is manufactured and distributed,” said Paul Rhynard, Wilkinson Baking chief executive officer. “This is just the beginning of our journey with a highly disruptive solution that brings truly fresh bread to consumers, thanks in part to our incredible new partners.”

With a humble start in Walla Walla, Wash., WBC perfected the commercial bread-baking robot aptly named the BreadBot. After several years of in-market pilots at seven grocery stores, WBC launched its commercially ready model the summer of 2022.

Driverless delivery 

Faction Technology, Inc., a driverless-technology company offering solutions that solve inefficiencies in micro-logistics and vehicles on demand, has announced it is bringing driverless delivery to portions of the San Francisco Bay Area. Faction’s first partner is Cocola Bakery, which is using Faction to reliably deliver to its customers around the metro region.

“Cocola Bakery and our customers have been ecstatic with the services Faction has provided us so far,” said Amir Aliabadi, chief executive officer of Cocola Bakery. “We are now able to quickly, affordably, and reliably deliver our products to customers around the Bay Area, something we couldn’t easily accomplish before due to inconsistent gig-worker services.”

Deliveries will be made in lightweight, electric vehicles based on three-wheel EV platforms from Arcimoto, Inc. and from ElectraMeccanica.

Since July, Faction has made regular deliveries to the bakery’s customers and it’s now looking to add additional delivery partners in the coming months.

Equipped with Faction’s DriveLink® and TeleAssist® technologies, the company’s vehicle fleet combines autonomy with remote human teleoperation to carry out its deliveries. These technologies allow Faction to provide businesses like Cocola Bakery with a delivery service that seamlessly delivers goods via a driverless fleet in an affordable, safe, and predictable way.