We look at the latest news from Ahold Delhaize and its formats in the Netherlands and the US.
Netherlands: New AI for Retail (AIR) lab launched…
In the Netherlands, Ahold has officially opened its AIR Lab in Delft. It is an expansion of the retailer’s AIR Lab in Amsterdam, developed in collaboration with Delft University. The lab will be used to research robotics and develop new innovations for the retail industry. Ahold said the team are already working on developing their first prototypes and solutions.
A three-day event was held to mark the opening of the lab. Scientists, operational employees, students, and sponsors of the lab attended and listened to presentations given on AI and robotics. Attendees also toured the lab, the botanical gardens and the science centre.
…Alongside new Kickstart AI initiative
In related news, Ahold has established Kickstart AI, together with four other Dutch companies. The group, comprised of financial services group ING, airline KLM, transport operator NS and medical technology firm Philips, aims to promote the use and development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the country. It wants to ensure that the Netherlands maintains its position as a “pioneer and inventor of technologies” and provide opportunities to show how AI can solve societal challenges.
Maarten de Rijke, professor at the University of Amsterdam and director of the Innovation Centre for AI, said, “The quality of our AI specialists is well-acknowledged worldwide. However, without a national AI strategy and swift action, the severe shortage of AI talent in our country remains one of the biggest roadblocks to realising the full potential of AI talent and technology.”
As part of the initiative, the group will create a Dutch national course for AI to educate and improve understanding. The group have also said they will fund the salaries of 25 new academics in AI, following reports that universities would limit the number of places due to staff shortages.
Netherlands: Online health platform acquired
Separately, Ahold’s Etos drugstore subsidiary has acquired the Solvo Group, owner of popular health-related websites in the Netherlands. The move is part of Ahold’s plan to create a new drugstore concept, which serves shoppers 24/7 online and in-store. The financial details of the deal remain undisclosed.
The Solvo Group operates websites including doktordokter.nl, gezondheidsplein.nl, solvo.nl and ziekenhuis.nl. It also manages a booking platform for approximately 5,000 healthcare specialists. Customers can ask questions regarding their health and communicate with the specialists via the platform. They can also make appointments and receive personal advice online.
Ahold said the acquisition makes Etos “the largest provider of health and wellness information and products for consumers” in the country. Saskia Egas Reparaz, Etos brand president, commented, “The combination of our physical stores with the Solvo platforms is an important step in our goal of realising the new drugstore, where information, advice and the range of products go hand in hand.”
US: Food Lion expands click and collect service
Meanwhile in the US, Food Lion plans to expand its 'To-Go' online grocery pickup at an additional 50 stores in five states. The ‘To-Go’ service will be rolled out in additional stores based in Delaware, the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia, starting from the 14 October 2019. Overall, there will be 200 stores that offer the Click-and-Collect service. The service enables shoppers to fill a virtual cart with grocery items and then select their pickup time window as soon as their online orders are placed.
Deborah Sabo, senior vice president of marketing at Food Lion, said in a statement, “We are so excited to expand this convenient service to more stores in the Food Lion footprint and enable customers to spend more time on what matters most to them”.