A French manufacturer of ‘connected fridges’ for workplace catering environments has said it is open to developing distribution partners in the UK.
Paris-based start-up NU! launched its concept three years ago when it introduced connected fridges to dispense meals.
Orders really took off in spring 2020 following France’s first Covid-19 lockdown and recently it has teamed up with tech firm Limonetik to integrate new payment solutions into the system.
“We have tripled deliveries of connected fridges and now manage a fleet of 50 units installed in France, though mostly in Paris, where we started the business,” explained co-founder and CEO Aude Camus. “Since July we have expanded to 10 other cities, including Lyon and Bordeaux. We’ve begun installing our products in Switzerland and Luxembourg.”
Ms Camus founded the business with colleagues Antoine Asfar and Mayeul Nicolas, who wanted the company to have a neutral carbon footprint.
The concept came to fruition when the three engineers with very different specialisations met in Asia.
The initial idea naturally evolved as they developed a solution to offer catering that values zero waste and meets the needs of businesses who want to provide their employees with a wider variety of healthy meals using local products.
In practical terms, the machine automatically dispenses food and drinks (up to 100 meals per unit) in reusable glass jars and drinks.
The system is ergonomic, easy to use and designed to reduce queues. It communicates remotely using maintenance and management software.
Real-time data informs the NU! team through back-office software of the system status and the supply levels of the fridges.
Ms Camus, whose firm now employs 10 people, said the equipment was proving popular with business caterers that want to promote their products and gain notoriety.
“Our customers have access to every NU! fridge through a software interface that’s fully developed in-house,” she said. “This way they can see how many of their products have been sold over time. Our team is able to intervene remotely in the event of a problem.”
The company invested two years of R&D into developing the first self-service fridge in lunchrooms, corporate restaurants and other public spaces.
Since creating a system of automatic, connected shelves linked via remote monitoring and maintenance software, the team have focused their attention on simplifying customer payment.
The partnership with Limonetik, a major player in the world of payment and marketplace solutions, means that users can now purchase products by a variety of methods, including meal vouchers distributed by their employers.
“To convince our customers – whether businesses or caterers – we absolutely had to integrate multiple payment methods along with electronic meal vouchers. Otherwise, we would never have had the success we have today,” said Ms Camus.