Carulla FreshMarket: the first carbon neutral supermarket in Colombia

Date : 09 December 2020

Oliver Butterworth

Retail Analyst

Grupo Éxito recently opened the 14th store in its Carulla FreshMarket banner. This forward-thinking format has been certified by the Colombian Institute of Technical Standards and Certifications (ICONTEC) as the first carbon neutral food retailer in Colombia.

The business invested COP6.5bn (US$1.9m) in renovating its Carulla 140 store, which opened at the end of November 2020 and is located in the northern area of the capital city, Bogotá. This store, which features an impressive 45 new innovations, showcases Grupo Éxito’s commitment to climate change. Here we explore some of the key features and initiatives.

Reducing emissions

In partnership with Greenyellow, Grupo Éxito has implemented a renewable energy system, consisting of 362 solar panels, which it says will reduce the emission of 60 tons of CO2 annually. The business has ambitious aims of reducing its total carbon footprint by 35% by 2023.

Source: Grupo Éxito

The store uses natural refrigeration cooling systems, replacing traditional refrigerants, which minimises the emission of greenhouse gases.

“With this store, we are taking a very important step in our sustainability strategy, since several objectives we have been working on are materialised here: to be the first carbon-neutral food supermarket through offsetting and reducing emissions”. Pablo Montoya, Grupo Éxito's head of sustainability.

Plastic reduction

This store is the first to feature a digital Refill machine for purchasing soap/laundry detergents in bulk. Customers can purchase these products by using re-suable containers.

Source: Grupo Éxito

All products in the prepared food area, and all perishables use packaging made from compostable materials. Grupo Éxito has eliminated the use of Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene) and single-use plastics for these products. The business has also reduced the use of plastic bags on checkouts by 61% (at a company-wide level) since 2015.

Sustainable livestock model

The business has launched a sustainable livestock model, which it said is “developed by livestock suppliers [who are] allied in the conservation of ecosystems, meat quality and animal welfare in each of its farms”.

All meat sold at Carulla FreshMarket 140 is audited under sustainable practices. Products which meat the necessary criteria to be sold in store are certified with a GANSO (sustainable livestock) seal, which demonstrates the suppliers are committed to the conservation of natural ecosystems.

“The launch of our sustainable livestock model seeks to protect forests, the agricultural frontier and ecosystems through solutions based on nature” Montoya.

Innovative technology

This 1,867sq. m store is a hotbed of innovation and technology. Whilst some of this is aimed at sustainability and conscious consumption, other initiatives are aimed at biosafety, omnichannel and enhancing the customer experience.

Simplified payment

Some of the most advanced technology used in the store is implemented at the checkout. The store uses self-checkouts (still largely underdeveloped in Colombia and Latin America) with in-built Smile ID technology. This enables customers to pay for products using facial recognition (with biometrics registered in the Carulla app).

Source: Grupo Éxito

The checkouts also have a new Fruver Scan feature, which is a AI system (developed with Google Cloud) which automatically identifies fruit and vegetables when they are placed on the scanner. This helps customers to quickly register their products, speeding up the scanning process, whilst also supporting biosecurity. This is the first supermarket to feature this technology in Latin America.

Source: Grupo Éxito

Social Robot

The stores’ interactive social robot (named Lú Carulla) welcomes customers and is on hand for them to ask questions, such as the price or location of products.

Source: Grupo Éxito

An accessible and inclusive store

Grupo Éxito has developed a new training programme for employees so they can learn new skills on how to better serve customers with disabilities e.g. learning sign language. New initiatives, including a guided shopping service, have been implemented to make shopping at this store more accessible to all shoppers. Changes have also been made to the store design to help customers with reduced mobility.

Our view

Grupo Éxito has made an impressive commitment to climate change and its zero-carbon certification from ICONTEC is admirable. Retailers in other markets can take learnings from how the business is working with external partners and developing technology to reduce its carbon footprint, whilst also creating a memorable shopping experience for customers.

See inside our pick for October’s store of the month, Grupo Éxito Wow, Laureles. We look at how the retailer is innovating and investing in technology to simplify the shop, integrating retail and foodservice, and showcasing strength in private label.

In December 2019 Colombian retailer Grupo Éxito, part of the French Casino Group, opened its Carulla SmartMarket store concept in Bogotá, Colombia. This innovation lab, which is Colombia’s first smart supermarket, exhibits 30 pieces of innovative technology which enhance the customer experience.

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