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Baked by bots, automated bread bakery returns to Sandpoint

by ALY DE ANGELUS
Hagadone News Network | August 11, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — After 50 years of fine-tuning robot hands and bread recipes, Breadbot, the world’s first fully-automated bread bakery, will be serving fresh products in Sandpoint and Walla Walla’s Super 1 Foods grocery store.

“What we now have in stores, even though the idea had its first germination in the ’70s, this is the first time that it’s been done,” said Randall Wilkinson, CEO of Wilkinson Bakery. “It’s taken that long before everything came together to make it possible, including our own inventions as well as the off-the-shelf technologies available today that hadn’t been until recently.”

The idea for a fully-automated bread bakery was born in the 1970s by a father-and-son duo in Seattle, Wilkinson said. Completion of the prototype took over 20 years and his family’s company bought the rights to the idea another 10 years later.

Sandpoint and Walla Walla were the first two cities to see a working prototype for nine months in 2016, but Wilkinson said his family wasn’t quite ready to sign off on the product without some last-minute design changes.

“What we have been doing all the way up to this point is working to make sure we have the proper design, the proper reliability,” he said. “Something like this has never been done, it’s taking time to get that dialed in.”

Wilkinson said he expects to ramp up production by the end of the year. Although there is nothing like this on the market right now, Coeur d’Alene will be unveiling its Breadbot next week and other Super 1 Foods grocery stores will eventually house a mini-bakery as well.

The goal of this product is to keep bread fresh for customers, in all kinds of varieties such as home-style white bread and nine grain bread that each are sold at $2.98 per loaf. The machine is about 10 feet wide and rotates bread products with a robot hand.

According to Wilkinson, the machine can produce fresh bread in 90 minutes, which is quicker than most 48-hour fresh slogans on the shelves.

“The Super 1 bakery staff operates our equipment to make the bread in the store,” he said. “The days you are coming through you watch the bread in the process of being made and take the loaf that is being made home with you, fresh as possible.”

The machine is also being tested on sourdough bread and sprouted greens.

Since installed last month, Sandpoint’s Super 1 Foods grocery store has received positive feedback and Wilkinson Bakery’s Breadbot machine was featured in the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show.

“We came as a small company,” Wilkinson said. “What happened was the thing just blew up in terms of media coverage. Everyone was flocking to see the breadbot and taste the bread.”

To celebrate the partnership with Super 1 Foods and Wilkinson Bakery, Sandpoint’s store will be hosting a bread giveaway on Sept. 4-6. The first 25 customers to snap a photo and tag Wilkinson Bread Bakery on Instagram and Facebook will receive a 30-day coupon book and the next 50 customers will receive a seven-day coupon book.

“Each coupon can be used on one specific day,” Wilkinson said, “so if you have the book of coupons and you want to go by Super 1 each day, you can pick up a fresh loaf of bread each day.”

Although, Wilkinson said more than likely people will end up sharing their coupons with friends and family. “And you will help us give free bread to your circle of friends to try it out,” he said.

For more information on the fully-automated bread bakery visit Wilkinsonbaking.com.