Albertsons Cos., Boise, Idaho, and Takeoff Technologies, Waltham, Mass., teamed up to collaborate on the future of grocery micro-fulfillment centers (MFC) to drive the future of e-commerce order fulfillment.

Albertsons Cos. purchased additional MFCs from Takeoff, and is evaluating market expansion opportunities. Albertsons partnered with Takeoff Technologies in 2018 to pilot the micro-fulfillment center concept and Takeoff’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, making it what is said to be the first national grocer to implement an automated e-commerce fulfillment solution. Another pilot unit is scheduled to begin operations at a Safeway in San Jose, Calif., before the end of 2019.

“The micro-fulfillment center model is a key element in the store of the future,” says Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO of Albertsons Cos. “It combines the efficiency of automation with the ease of meeting customers when and how they want to shop. In working with Takeoff, we can evolve how the MFC ties into our store and e-commerce ecosystems and accelerate our path to best serve our customers.”

“We are thrilled to broaden our partnership with Albertsons Cos., a clear leader in grocery retailing and a key player shaping the future of e-groceries,” adds Max Pedró, co-founder and president of Takeoff. “With our strategic partnership, we’re confident we’ll be able to add significant value to their business and consumers as we work in partnership to define the future of e-commerce.”

Micro-fulfillment centers bring together the proximity of brick-and-mortar stores with the automation capabilities of a large warehouse. Located inside an existing store, micro-fulfillment centers typically hold about 15,000-18,000 of the local market’s most popular products.

“In collaborating with Takeoff, we’re able to leverage their thought leadership in e-commerce fulfillment with our expertise in running great grocery stores that meet customers’ everyday needs, and that’s exciting turf for us,” says Chris Rupp, executive vice president and chief customer and digital officer at Albertsons. “By placing an MFC in an existing store close to customers, we can carry a diverse and locally relevant selection of products with the friendly touch of our local team to service the customer.”

“We are living in historic times. The grocery industry is transforming its way into the future, and the winners will be the ones getting it right first. Albertsons Cos.’ move to expand its micro-fulfillment capability is a clear testament of such transformation,” says José Aguerrevere, co-founder and CEO of Takeoff.