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Southeastern Grocers centrally manages ice production – with AI

Party Cubes will be available at select Southeastern Grocers locations, including a Winn-Dixie store.

A regional grocery conglomerate is automating ice manufacturing in a new micro-factory.

Southeastern Grocers Inc. (SEG), the parent company of Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie, is partnering with Relocalize to pilot ice production in what the retailer says is the world’s first autonomous micro-factory. The retailer intends to eliminate middle-mile logistics for its private label ice brand as a result.

The new ice micro-factory is located at the grocer’s Jacksonville, Fla. distribution center. It is centrally managed by an AI-powered software platform and utilizes robotics for 100% of production labor. The automated manufacturing process enables the grocer to scale production and reduce waste throughout the full lifecycle of its ice product, lowering economic and environmental impact of ice production and distribution.

Through this partnership, SEG is also introducing a private-label packaged ice product called Party Cubes, which is certified plastic-negative, packaged ice that is produced on-site and on-demand at the new micro-factory. For every one pound of plastic used in packaging Party Cubes, Relocalize will remove and recycle two pounds of ocean plastic.

Additionally, the process produces zero water waste (compared to 50% normally) and reduces trucking carbon dioxide emissions by 90%. The product is now available at two Jacksonville locations, including a Winn-Dixie store and the grocer’s stand-alone liquor store, WDs Wine, Beer and Liquor, with considerations to expand to the broader market in the future.

“Our partnership with Relocalize meets at the intersection of sustainability and innovation and provides a unique opportunity to offer our customers better ice, in a better package, at a better price – that’s also better for the planet,” said Anthony Hucker, president and CEO for Southeastern Grocers. “We plan to pilot ice manufacturing in the world’s first autonomous ice micro-factory in our hometown of Jacksonville, and we are excited to now offer Party Cubes in select local stores as we test and learn with the industry's first hyper-local, certified plastic-negative, packaged ice. We believe it’s our responsibility to be leaders of change, and we continue to push forward for a brighter future for our people, products and planet.”

“Two years ago, we set out on a mission to decarbonize food supply chains,” said Wayne McIntyre, CEO & co-founder for Relocalize. “Today, fully autonomous hyper-local food manufacturing becomes a reality through our partnership with Southeastern Grocers. This premier packaged ice micro-factory represents a fundamental shift in how packaged food is produced and distributed, ushering in the era of the one-step food journey from production to consumption.”

[Read more: Winn-Dixie and Harvey’s roll out curbside pickup]

Based in Jacksonville, Fla., Southeastern Grocers Inc. (SEG) is the parent company and home of Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket, and Winn-Dixie grocery stores. SEG grocery stores, liquor stores and in-store pharmacies operate throughout the five southeastern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

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