The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically boosted online grocery orders, which shoppers often pick up at the store.

Some retailers are now simplifying this click-and-collect process by installing kiosks outside the store, where orders can be retrieved.

One company supplying these kiosks, Estonia-based Cleveron, has announced that it is going natural in its refrigeration by using Carrier Transicold NaturaLINE CO2 containers for its automated outdoor Cleveron 501 grocery kiosks.

The NaturaLINE containers are the first and only ones using CO2 (R744) as the refrigerant for container refrigeration, according to a statement on Carrier’s website.

The NaturaLINE R744 containers are most often used for marine shipping services, i.e., for intercontinental shipping of fresh and frozen food, and for local coastal shipping.

Cleveron has offered automated click-and-collect solutions for grocery retailers for more than 10 years. At a time when consumer health and safety is of the highest priority, the Cleveron 501 offers “a convenient and touchless 24/7 alternative to in-store shopping or pickup, as well as home delivery,” Carrier said.

Cleveron has sold the 501 units for installation all over Europe, often to users with in-store R744 refrigeration systems provided by Carrier Commercial Refrigeration Europe. The company has also sold Cleveron 501s to the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

The Cleveron 501 units come in 20ft and 40ft sizes (7m and 13m). The standard model has one refrigerated zone with an internal temperature set point adjustable from 2°C to 25°C (36°F to 77°F). Cleveron also offers an optional, low-temperature zone with a set point of -18°C (0°F), which can be added to the standard units, enabling storage of fresh and frozen groceries in the same container robot unit.

In the U.S., Albertsons Companies in January announced that it was the first American grocer to pilot an automated and contactless grocery pickup kiosk – the Cleveron 501, according to a case study on Cleveron’s website.

The kiosk is located at one of its Jewel-Osco stores in Chicago, Illinois.

Jewel-Osco shoppers are offered two-hour time slots to pick up their groceries. At the kiosk, they scan a code on their phone and their groceries are robotically delivered to the front of the unit for pickup. The unit features two temperature zones—regular and a deep freeze. A customer’s order can be stored in two different zones and still be delivered in the same console for pick up.

“We are supercharging our digital and omnichannel offerings to serve customers however they want, whenever they want,” said Chris Rupp, EVP and Chief Customer & Digital Officer at Albertsons Cos, in a statement. “This innovative and contactless PickUp kiosk makes it even easier for customers to shop with us in a way that is convenient for them.”

Solid cooling

Mihkel Ilp, Chief Operating Officer at Cleveron, explained the partnership with Carrier. “We realized that combining refrigerated shipping containers and our robotics would enable us to create a product that is easy to transport and quick to install, and that also delivers solid cooling and withstands the forces of nature,” he said.

“Carrier was selected as our preferred partner because of its long history in the field of refrigeration and shipping containers, and because Carrier offers the NaturaLINE system with R744 refrigerant,” Ilp added, stressing that the sustainability of the NaturaLINE container appeals to his customers, a segment that includes “large multi-national grocery retailers.”

Carrier’s shipping customers include Danish freight company DFDS, which invested in 50 units in 2019, and U.S. shipping company TOTE Maritime, which bought more than 200 units that year.

Leasing of NaturaLINE containers is also possible, with The Mediterranean Shipping Company, based on Switzerland, leasing 2,000 units in 2018 from U.S.-based SeaCube, a company that owns and manages both dry and refrigerated shipping containers. 

Another click-and-collect option, which has taken root in France and elsewhere in Europe, is EPTABricks which are refrigerated lockers located inside buildings or outside. Manufactured by Italian OEM Epta, EPTABricks lockers use propane (R290) refrigerant for both fresh food (#EPTAfreshBricks) and frozen food (#EPTAfrozenBricks).

“Carrier was selected as our preferred partner because of its long history in the field of refrigeration and shipping containers, and because Carrier offers the NaturaLINE system with R744 refrigerant”

Mikhel Ilp, Cleveron

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