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Japan's First Zero-Waste Supermarket - No Waste and No Food Loss

Teraoka Seiko Co. Ltd. (Headquarters: Ohta-ku, Tokyo, Japan / President Kosuke Yamamoto) and startup Totoya Inc. (Headquarters: Kyoto, Japan/ President: Atsuko Umeda) have collaborated on the development of a system that enables self-service bulk shopping for a wide range of food products. We launched the system in Kyoto on July 3, 2021 by opening Totoya, Japan's first zero-waste supermarket.

As a company whose foundation is the scale business, Teraoka Seiko has been actively involved in the popularization of bulk shopping (selling by weight), but the concept has not been widely adopted in Japan and until now has been positioned as a Western-oriented solution. It was in this context that we encountered Totoya. After reading about them in a small newspaper article we happened to come across, we paid a visit to their store near Yoyogi Park in February 2020. What we found was a group of young people who were even more passionate about bulk shopping than we are, and we consider ourselves professionals in the weighing industry. They were working with a missionary-like dedication to spreading the word about bulk shopping.

Teraoka Seiko offers leading edge bulk shopping technology in Europe and the United States. However, technology alone is not enough to popularize bulk shopping. Collaboration with food producers, a social movement for practicing eco-friendliness, the ability to communicate this message, and store management know-how are all essential to achieving this. Having observed Totoya's activities, we believe they have all these elements in place. Recognizing that Totoya shares our mission of reinventing the bulk shopping process with new technology, we decided to work together to make zero-waste retailing a reality.


■ Introducing a self-service bulk shopping system perfected in Europe to the Japanese market

Bulk shopping is supposed to be both planet-friendly and people-friendly by allowing shoppers to buy as much or as little as they want. However, conventional weighing systems are troublesome for both retailers and consumers, and are not easily accepted by shoppers, who are accustomed to prepackaged products. We have tried to resolve these issues by leveraging our experience in the European retail industry and incorporating new technology into our self-service scale.

  • Automatic tare of bring-your-own containers using RFID tags
    An essential aspect for achieving zero waste is selling products without packaging, but this requires that consumers bring their own reusable containers. However, the weight of these containers varies. Our system makes automatic tare possible by first recording the weight of a shopper’s empty container (tare weight) on an RFID tag, which is applied to the container. Then, the shopper simply places the container on the scale after filling it, and the tare weight is automatically subtracted, to give the net weight of the product being purchased.
  • e.Sense motion sensors for accurate and speedy product selection
    Another issue with self-service bulk shopping is shrinkage due to errors during product selection. To solve this, an e.Sense motion sensor the size of a 500-yen coin is attached to each product dispenser. The motion of a shopper dispensing a product is sensed and a button for the product to be purchased is automatically displayed on the screen of the nearest scale. The shopper then simply taps the button for their item to ensure the correct product information is used.
  • Hi-Touch electronic shelf tags eliminate price errors for over-the-counter sales.
    Electronic shelf tags are installed for each product in the meat, fish, and deli sections to eliminate price discrepancies. The store clerk taps the associated Hi-Touch tag as they remove an item from the showcase and the product information automatically appears on the scale display. This eliminates price errors and allows store clerks to concentrate on their most important job, serving customers.
  • RM-3800 bulk shopping account management system with Japan's first deposit management functionality (patent pending)
    In promoting its BYOC (Bring Your Own Container) initiative, Totoya is also lending containers to shoppers using a deposit system. The newly developed RM-3800 POS scale checkout solution is the first POS system in Japan that manages customer information and deposits for loaner containers. Fruits and vegetables from open shelves in the produce section are weighed at the checkout register and entered into the POS system in a single step.

e.Sense motion sensor / SM-6000SSR self-service scale / Hi-Touch electronic shelf tag / RM-3800 POS scale


■ Our Challenge

To deal with food loss that occurs when handling perishable products, Totoya is developing preserved food products that incorporate these perishable ingredients before they lose their freshness. In addition, during dinner hours they operate a restaurant that serves dishes made from the ingredients to further prevent food loss. Our solution does away with the trouble and burden typically associated with selling by weight and provides an enjoyable bulk shopping experience for the consumer. We have also created a system for eliminating single-use containers by circulating containers through BYOC and deposit-based container lending. Going forward, our goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of this new grocerant model as a sustainable business.

Recognizing that our products, technologies, and solutions can contribute to society and the environment, we will continue our efforts toward the creation of a circular society.