In the United States, all eyes have been on The Kroger Co.'s partnership with Ocado for 20 highly automated customer fulfillment centers (CFCs). Kroger broke ground on its first location in Ohio in June 2019, and a number of other locations have been announced for Florida, Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin and the mid-Atlantic region.
As construction continues on these facilities, however, Ocado has launched its first North American CFC just over the border in Vaughan, Ontario. Sobeys parent company, Empire, is Ocado's exclusive Canadian partner, and the new CFC will service online grocery home delivery service Violà by Sobeys.
Violà has started testing orders from the CFC, with rollout to customers planned across the greater Toronto area (GTA) once testing is complete.
"Our robotic automated warehouses will set us apart with a higher-quality service experience for Canadians," said Sarah Joyce, Empire's SVP for e-commerce. "Online grocery home delivery is an essential service – one that’s needed now more than ever before. We are thrilled to bring Voilà by Sobeys to the GTA and do our part to help Canadians in this challenging time."
In Canada, the next step is to have CFCs launch in Quebec and Ottawa. Another Ocado CFC, in France, got up and running last month as well.
"This is a milestone moment for Ocado Solutions. Within almost a month, we have brought two international CFCs live and on time with partners in Canada and France," noted Luke Jensen, CEO of Ocado Solutions. "These are testament to the amazing working partnerships we have developed, particularly under recent challenging circumstances with COVID-19."
Based in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Sobeys Inc. owns or franchises about 1,500 stores in all 10 Canadian provinces under retail banners that include Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, Farm Boy and Lawtons Drug Stores, as well as more than 350 retail fuel locations. It employs more than 120,000 associates.