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SmartBins reimagines grocery stores for a sustainable future.

SmartBins brings a modern and automated alternative to pre-packaged products through dispenser systems.

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Solution Title

Updating center-store to save our world & wallets!

Solution Summary

Our solution to reduce food relate waste is to create an automated bulk food distributing system that reduces our consumers and manufactures reliance on single-use and disposable plastics.

Terms and Conditions

  • Yes

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)


Website (if applicable)

What is the current stage of development of your solution?

  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your solution, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. The first image you provide will be the image used to promote your idea as a Winner.

SmartBins is built around reusable systems making sustainability a business advantage.

SmartBins builds product dispensers (think automated bulk bin food aisle) selling everyday consumables including food and beverages, cleaning and beauty products. SmartBins makes shopping package-free as easy as pre-packaged in brick & mortar and online retail. This technology holds the key to capturing a $162B+ lost opportunity in retail and addressing the plastic crisis in a profitable way. 

SmartBins enables a similar supply chain to flatpack IKEA Furniture but for food and everyday essentials. 


  • 2X+ margins for retailers
    • Streamlined supply chains
    • Increased sales per sq./ft
    • Automated inventory management
    • Decreased store operational costs
    • Interactive marketing
  • Sustainable supply chain and packaging
  • Online fulfillment solution
  • ~20% shopper savings

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Point of sale checkout
  • In-store pickup
  • Local delivery from retailer
  • Innovative materials
  • Reusable models
  • Bagless solutions

How does this solution integrate into retail environments or delivery systems?

Through co-creation with all stakeholders, our Add-on integrated effortlessly in national or international retailer with legacy bulk aisles. Sensors are fixed onto preexisting bulk bins and our automated kiosk conveniently tracks and prints your purchase labels so you're ready for a quick and hassle-free checkout. Our S1 offering is much more than a bulk aisle. The S1 enables package-free, completely-hygienic merchandising for retailers, ghost kitchens, corporate campuses, and cafeterias.

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Our product offerings are vetted with an intensive 6-month user-testing process conducted by our Chief of Design. For instance, we learned from retailers that bulk food pain-points are related to a lack of inventory management tracking however shoppers care most about the cleanliness, convenience, and brand (in this order) that both our product solutions touch upon. The S1 in particular benefits CPG/producer brands with its interactive digital marketing display that leverages novel shopper behavior, helping to tailer marketing assets. Active weight measuring allows for easy checkout-free shopping while the nozzle's geometry has been optimized for intuitive interaction with any jar/bag.

How does or might your solution meet or exceed the performance of the single-use plastic bag?

The product refill model gives retailers and shoppers greater flexibility in the type, size, and quantity of carrier bags needed or chosen. Bulk food aisles encourage use of reusable containers, thus prompting shoppers to bring reusable carrier bags with them to the store. Dispenser/refill shopping replaces the need for many prepackaged products which are typically ~40% empty space. This reduces the need for the number of carrier bags needed for a multitude reasons that can be discussed further.

How does this solution impact / improve workflows for stakeholders (e.g. cashiers, stocking staff)?

SmartBins automates inventory management, increase sales per sq/ft and reduce operational costs in center store. Our S1 solution is compatible with existing POS and cashier paradigms, while coming out of the box with checkout-free capability for future evolution of retailers needs. The Add-on System decreases checkout times by 8X, thus allowing for a variety of carrier bag solutions.

What additional benefits might the solution provide to stakeholders (retailers and customers alike)?

Eliminating expiring product and reducing food waste. Most food produced is never consumed due largely to spoilage. We can eliminate products expiring as we automate discount cycles based on shelf life. By allowing shoppers to get the amount of product they need we can reduce at-home spoilage as well.

How is your solution scalable across retail environments?

With the diverse and varied product categories in mind, we designed the S1 valve to dispense a variety of products. We have partnered with leading companies in this space to provide the groundwork to scale both the S1 and Add-on System.

What regions will your solution be applicable in?

We have partnered with several global packaging and and retail hardware companies to distribute and service our products. Through our partners we are able to reach western Europe and North and South America.

How is your solution recoverable? What is the expected end of life for this solution's materials once it is no longer usable? Please upload any documentation or evidence of material recoverability.

SmartBins is the platform to enable reusable packaging or compostable single-use packaging. It is up the the retailer and shopper to decide how they want to bring their product from store to home. Plastic alternatives will be enabled through SmartBins as shoppers are now able to use less robust materials as plastic as a package only has to travel from store to home.

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

Our focus is reducing packaging waste throughout the supply chain. This has a spillover effect in reducing C02 emissions with shipping from supplier to retailer and food spoilage from cultivation to disposal and everything in between.

In what ways does or might your solution prompt behavior change amongst stakeholders, including retail staff and customers? How will your solution successfully design for this change?

The efficiency of package-free shopping and the financial benefits attributed with it make it a clear win for both shoppers and retailers. Consumers are increasingly familiar with reusable packing as seen with the adoptions of reusable water bottles and grocery bags. Although we don't require reusable containers we enable them as well as single-use.

What health and safety concerns might your solution raise, and how are you considering addressing them?

SmartBins does not raise safety concerns but address them to reduce contamination in a meaningful way. By reducing touch/contamination points throughout the supply chain and store, we are making shopping safer. Please use the link below to view a short piece on the inherent safety of dispensers.

Please upload a business model canvas or plan.

We charge a subscription to retailers for access to inventory management and updating pricing/discount cycles. We also sell data to CPGs with novel insights into shopper behavior. We are now able to understand how marketing affects shopper behavior with active feedback on advertising. We can also understand how much product shoppers prefer and price point information previously unavailable.

What are the biggest challenges you're facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

NRE (non reoccurring engineering costs) associated with product development.

Mentorship needs (please select up to 3)

  • Retail Operations/Flow
  • Growth and Scaling
  • Legal
  • Fundraising / Finance

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

I'm a veteran having moved from serving our nation to defending our planet. I am passionate about making sustainability a part of our everyday lives.

In what city are you located?

Santa Cruz, Ca

In what country are you located?


What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

Delaware C

Please describe how becoming a Winner will support the growth of your concept.

Network, Funding, Partnerships.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Direct email invitation

Is your company a diverse supplier, MBE, WBE, VBE?

  • Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB)

Who pays for the solution—customer or retailer? How will the solution be cost competitive to single-use plastic bags at scale? How would that be explained to a retailer? To a consumer / bag purchaser?

Retailer and CPG. SmartBins holds a similar cost to a traditional bulk bin aisle but with exponential benefits and a wider product variety opportunity. Our novel insights data into shopper behavior as it relates to advertising outcomes and quantity preference are monetized with brands. Retailers can license the SmartBins software platform to automate center store operations and grow high-margin sales.

How is your solution distributed / introduced/ explained to consumers to maximize adoption and by whom or what?

CPG's are showing meaningful buy-in with materials and education to consumers for both SmartBins and zero plastic products.

In thinking about inclusivity and accessibility, who may not be able to use your solution, and how might that be addressed?

To persons with disabilities it could be difficult to reach the upper dispenser level. However, it is easier than a top shelves in a regular grocery aisle.

(If applicable) In whose system does the backend of this technology live? What is accessible to a Retailer and what benefits does that offer?

Retailer View item capacity levels, automate fulfillment and enable just-in-time delivery Push promotions instantly create product discounts for nearly expired product Data visualization, understand sales history, seasonal trends, buying habits Track cleaning schedules, view usage frequency Brand benefits: Novel shopper insights Target marketing Pricing optimization, instantly update with feedback In-store platform for advertising A/B testing Understand product portion size preferences

What is your top insight from the feedback you received? What was surprising or unexpected?

The opportunity to buy most soaps and detergents, home and body care products, not just food, through dispensers!

What is resonating with stakeholders?

Shoppers have been desperate for alternatives to single use packaging that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Based on the Refinement Phase, what components of the solution do you plan to change and how will these changes improve your solution? Be specific.

We are quickly adapting the product for ghost stores enabling online fulfillment. The core of SmartBins is answering the question of 'how can we package for an individual sale as close to customer as possible?' As online sales grow, the need to reimagine WHERE and HOW products are packaged must be reexamined at a fundamental level. SmartBins enables bulk shipments to the fulfillment center and packaging for individual sale at this point.

Describe the timeline to implement these improvements. Be specific as to what will change tomorrow, three months, one year. What are your immediate next steps?

3 month pilot with retail partners. Refine product design for DFM. Implementations for traditional retail and ghost stores.

What support or resources are needed to achieve your next iteration?

$2M for S1 DFM

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Winner. Be specific.

Build more S1 Units for more deployments!

Interest in the Accelerator (Yes/No)

  • Yes

Do you consent to IDEO sharing your contact information (email) with Closed Loop Partners for continued communication?

  • Yes


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