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A sneak peek at the future of grocery automation in Canada


In the growing battle for Canada’s online grocery shopping dollars, a new name joined the fray in 2018 as a powerful ally of Sobeys—and they’re bringing robots.

Sobeys announced in January an agreement to bring Ocado Group’s full scope of online ordering, fulfillment automation and delivery to Canada in 2020.

"Sobeys intends to play to win in Canadian online grocery shopping," said Michael Medline, president and CEO of Sobeys Inc. “We are very excited to bring this best-in-the-world grocery e-commerce experience to Canadian customers.”

Sobeys and Ocado are starting in the Greater Toronto Area, with a customer fulfillment centre. Expansion and development in other urban centres may follow.

It will take a couple of years to build that first fulfillment centre, but curious Canadians can get a sneak peek of what that Sobeys CFC will look like thanks to a new 360-degree video tour of Ocado’s just-opened customer fulfillment centre in Andover, U.K.

While many people by now have seen videos of Amazon’s robots racing around the floors of massive warehouses gathering items for delivery, Ocado—often described as a grocery challenger to Amazon—has developed a very different looking system.

The Ocado Andover CFC is a three-storey grid of storage crates containing groceries. On top of the grid a fleet of 1,100 robots grab items and deliver them to "pick stations" where "personal shoppers" assemble orders for delivery. According to Ocado, an order of 50 items takes five minutes to pick and pack. Check an extended, detailed tour of the Andover facility here:

With a shorter version here:

And a more general overview of the Ocado system here:

A pioneer in the online grocery shopping space, Ocado established its brand by first operating its own online grocery business before expanding and launching its solutions division—providing its infrastructure, systems and technology to other companies—starting in 2014 with the British grocery chain Morrisons.

Late last year, Ocado got its first international client, Groupe Casino in France, followed by the Sobeys announcement in January. And, in May, the big breakthrough for Ocado came thanks to a deal with the second biggest grocery chain in the U.S. Kroger.





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