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NESTLE

Chirpy robots to sell Nescafé to Japanese

Nestlé has hired George Clooney to promote its Nespresso coffee but the Swiss-based food giant is employing a fleet of chirpy robots to sell its Nescafé products in Japanese stores.

Chirpy robots to sell Nescafé to Japanese
Photo: AFP

Pepper, a cheeky and chatty android, which its makers claim can answer customers' questions, is pitching for Nescafé rather than the Hollywood heartthrob.
   
"How do you enjoy coffee? Number one: An eye-opener coffee; Number two: A post-meal cup of coffee," Pepper asked a TV personality at a promotion event on Monday.
   
The 120-centimetre (four-foot) tall robot has a human-like face perched on top of a white plastic body, with rollers and what looks like a tablet computer on its chest.

Nestlé earlier announced plans to use the robots in Japan.
   
The gimmick will eventually see 1,000 stores across the country with their own Pepper, which makers say can understand up to 80 percent of conversations.
   
The robots will "help us discover consumer needs through conversations between our customers and Pepper," said a joint statement from Nestlé and SoftBank, whose French arm Aldebaran developed the technology.
   
Pepper, which was unveiled in June by SoftBank president Masayoshi Son, already sells mobile phones at SoftBank's 74 Japanese stores, where it has been used to collect customers' opinions.
   
Engineers claim the robot's artificial intelligence has allowed it to expand its conversational ability by listening to what customers say.
   
The robot will go on sale to the public in February, with a price tag of 198,000 yen ($1,670) plus monthly fees.

Editor's note: This article was corrected to state that the robots are being used to sell Nescafé — not Nespresso products. 
 

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NESTLE

‘Unlimited resources’: Switzerland’s Nestle goes vegan

Swiss food giant Nestle, which has made billions with dairy products, said Monday it will host start-ups that want to develop vegetarian alternatives.

'Unlimited resources': Switzerland's Nestle goes vegan
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Nestle could thus find itself at the forefront of a sector that has strong growth potential, an analyst commented.

It plans to open its research and development (R&D) centre in Konolfingen, Switzerland to “start-ups, students and scientists” a statement said.

In addition to testing sustainable dairy products, the group plans to encourage work on plant-based dairy alternatives, it added.

Chief executive Mark Schneider was quoted as saying that “innovation in milk products and plant-based dairy alternatives is core to Nestle's portfolio strategy.”

The group unveiled a vegetable-based milk that had already been developed with the process, and technical director Stefan Palzer told AFP it planned to focus on 100-200 such projects a year.

Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, noted that while Nestle had missed some consumer trends in the past, it has now “taken something of a lead in the plant-based alternative market for food”.

And “given its pretty much unlimited resources, Nestle is going to come out one of the winners in the space,” Cox forecast in an e-mail.

Nestle said that “internal, external and mixed teams” would work at the R&D centre over six-month periods.

Nestle would provide “expertise and key equipment such as small to medium-scale production equipment to facilitate the rapid upscaling of products for a test launch in a retail environment,” it added.

The Swiss food giant has long been known for its dairy products, but faced a boycott in the 1970s for allegedly discouraging mothers in developing countries from breastfeeding even though it was cheaper and more nutritious than powdered formula.

On Monday, the group's statement also underscored that the research initiative was part of its commitment to help fight global warming.

“As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet,” it said.

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