Petra Veldman, Stoffels Tomaten, on the story behind the ‘Automato’

Automato focuses on self-service trend

Tomato nursery Stoffels from Rijkevorsel, Belgium, stood out with the launch of the ‘Automato’ during Fruit Logistica Berlin back in 2016. For its latest innovation, the company even received the jury prize of the Innovation Award. But where did this idea come from?

According to co-owner Petra Stoffels-Veldman, the Automato is the result of common sense and a good feel for trends in retail. “Years ago, we noticed consumers wanted more self-service in supermarkets. Much has changed in retail since then. You can choose your own sweets now, and fruit juices can also often be pressed fresh in shops nowadays. Other remarkable trends are the growing interest in healthy food and the rise of self-service machines. All of this gave us the idea of the Automato.”

The Automato has been especially developed for cherry tomatoes, and above all, it’s easy to use. Stoffels: “The Automato is based on the Pick & Mix principle. This means you can decide for yourself how many tomatoes you want, and what colour you want to buy. Turning the wheel once allows six tomatoes to drop into a cup. The machine consists of various units that each contain their own colour of cherry tomato.” All this is done in a particularly hygienic manner. “The tomatoes in the Automato are packed in a special Toma’box, so no one touches them with their bare hands. We at Stoffels have very strict regulations regarding food safety, and with the Automato we now also bring that standard to shop floors.” Refilling the machine is also done very simply and hygienically. “Simply by changing the Toma’box dispenser,” Stoffels says. “For that matter, this can also be brought home by the consumer in its entirety, and placed in kitchens or on tables as home dispenser. Tomatoes as a tasty, healthy snack are gaining ground in popularity, after all. Even with children.”

PackRight Centre
To also make the Automato successful practically, much depended on the packaging of the tomatoes. Stoffels: “We invited various parties to that end, and we finally decided to work with DS Smith. The involvement of the packing experts decided us. In cooperation with their PackRight Centre, our team of product developers developed this handy dispenser.” Jan Vandewalle, Manager of the PackRight Centre, is also enthused. “This is an example of a project in which full insight into the distribution supply chain and expertise of these packing designers is optimally achieved.”

The double function of the Toma’box was a bit of a challenge for the developers, according to Vandewalle. “It had to fit into the Automato well, but at the same time, it has a completely different function when it’s brought home and used by the consumer. Technical functions have to be combined with user convenience for consumers, and product presentation has to be good.” For that reason, DS Smith worked on prototypes until everything was completely as desired. “In the end, we used digitally printed prototypes to help Stoffels successfully launch Automato at the Fruit Logistica. We’re glad the cooperation with Stoffels was able to boost this project once again,” Vandewalle concludes.
For more information:
Stoffels Tomaten


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