Weighing technology and food service – Weighing technology sector

08/01/2012

Scales are slowly returning to the produce section. This speeds up the scanning process at the checkout. New scales with touch screen monitors and video recognition make it possible. Customers no longer have to type in the number on the price tag like in the old days or choose from several dozen keys.

Consumers at many supermarkets had already gotten used to this: putting lettuce, apples or pears into the bag, weigh them and stick the label on the bag. However, slowly but surely many companies have done away with this process again. Some scales remain as “check-weighing scales“ for customers.

The old method had drawbacks

It turned out that this method had drawbacks. The scales had a keypad or shoppers had to select their product from more than two dozen codes with photo images and numbers. However, customers sometimes forgot the number listed on the price tag on their way to the scale and got a wrong label. This was not always correctable at the checkout. The result: annoying long waiting times.

Retail also discovered that some customers used the labeling system to their advantage. Premium apples turned into apples on sale. This cheating was not always caught at the checkout. Inventory and sales receipts no longer matched. Or the “error” was noticed and the bag needed a new ticket from the produce section.

Interview with Volker Busse, Creative Design Division, DIGI Deutschland

Many things are different in Japan compared to Germany. Japanese manufacturers have to adjust to local customs. On the other hand, Japan also broadens the horizon when it comes to product development. Designer Volker Busse from DIGI Deutschland , who gained experience for two-and-a-half years at the parent company in Tokyo and returned in 2009, experienced this. DIGI manufactures scales and packaging machines for the retail market and the food industry.

Do scales in German food retailing now return to the produce department?


Scales were never really completely gone from the produce section. It is always up to the individual supermarket and its layout as well its strategy on which scales are used and where. Meeting the many requirements of the market is and will remain an interesting task that is shaped by carefully listening to customer and end customer comments.

How honest are customers at the scale? How can retail monitor this?

I don’t have any exact data, but I am sure it varies from market to market. Of course it is better to design the weighing process yourself to minimize mistakes during weighing on the one hand, and on the other hand to limit ways to cheat. Ultimately, you want to offer a customer-oriented service that solves the weighing issue quickly and easily. In the end, a supermarket has to decide what is more important – reducing time spent at the checkout or taking possible losses through customers into account.

Years ago it was said that you can sell more with videos shown on the customer display at the sales counter. Is there now any real-world data on this?

Once the novelty wears off, meaning a few years after the display was installed at the store, you can loosely paraphrase Henry Ford and maintain that his hypothesis holds true: “If you stop advertising to save money, you may as well stop the clock to save time.“ However, you cannot deny that you have an additional information channel available. Whether and to which extent it is being accepted, doesn’t just depend on the type of customer, but also on his/her present mood, whether he/she for instance has time for this or the offered impulses correspond to his/her shopping goals. I certainly see an issue if the salesperson can no longer be seen behind the large display. Face-to-face contact with a friendly salesclerk cannot and should not be underestimated. With its Elexy-Display, DIGI has created a transparent display that is unique on the market and makes both things possible.

Does a wireless connection to high-touch service pay off? Are there technical limitations?

What is important is the transceiver line of sight (inter-visibility), the range, safety and speed of the data transfer. Thanks to wireless connections, price and product information can also be quickly and specifically changed via InfoCards or electronic shelf labeling. I believe the next big step towards an improved and more efficient workflow in the market can be achieved with these supports.

Interview with Peter Prante, Managing Director mirontell fein & frisch AG, Teltow

Peter Prante was an executive chef in Berlin for 20 years, most recently at Hotel Kempinski, which also serviced the ICC (International Congress Centrum) and major events. During this management assignment, it became clear to him that it is far too expensive to make your own fruit salads and platters. In 2004, he founded the mirontell company as an outsourcing partner for large-scale consumers and retailers. Prante started with 40 kilograms of fruit per day and today processes up to 12.5 tons. In September, he will finish a new building that will quadruple capacity.

Who are your customers?


We produce self-service fruit salads in plastic bowls of 200 to 500 grams and also cups, for instance for pineapple in slices or chunks. For the many single person households, the effort to cut your own fruit is not worth it. When somebody buys a sandwich for the office at the bakery, he/she also buys a small bowl of fruit salad. Alternatively, we deliver the salads in buckets of 3.5 to 10 kilos. This way, chefs have a trendy and sought after convenience product with a flick of the wrist. We also supply trade shows or events. For the Berlin Fashion Week, we make one thousand cups of pineapple dices or melon mix.

Personnel expenditures are far too high for hotels and caterers if they prepare the fruit themselves. However, they can decide on the composition, for instance getting 10 percent or 30 percent apples. We don’t produce juice from the leftovers, but we have a fruit salad for hospitals or nursing homes that is called “Itsy Bitsy” (”Klitzeklein“). It is well received. Other vendors dread the manual labor that is required for this.

Is there a minimum quantity for outsourcing?

It is difficult to state a minimum amount. We combine this in Berlin and Brandenburg with our fresh service. We are a full range provider there for retailers, hotels and communal catering. We supply the complete assortment of food products – and of course pack a few fruit salads on top. Apart from that, nationwide we only do fruit; we cannot do anything under 100 kilos. We produce for fruit and vegetable wholesalers, who besides tomatoes and cucumbers sell our fruit salads all over Germany.