This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada is enjoying the smell of freshly baked bread thanks to the Walla Walla, Washington-based Wilkinson Baking Company's BreadBot. Making its public debut at CES, the fully automated bread-making machine is aimed at supermarkets, convenience stores, schools, and the military, and can crank out 10 loaves per hour as it handles all the steps from flour to finished loaf.

Recently, robots have been slowly, but surely finding their way into the food industry. We've seen burger-flipping 'bots, mechanical bratwurst grillers, and even automatic salad makers. Now Wilkinson is looking to fill the gap between the home bread machine and the giant mass-production bread factory with an autonomous, self-contained bread machine that can make up to 235 loaves of bread per day, including white, wheat, whole wheat, nine grain, sourdough, organic, and honey oat varieties.

Wilkinson claims that the BreadBot is a first-of-its-kind and that it's not only environmentally friendly, but can improve profit margins for shops by up to 20 fold by eliminating the long transportation lines that centralized bread baking require, while reducing the need for on-site baking staff as an alternative.

According to the company, BreadBot's 120 x 53 in (305 x 135 cm) footprint is designed to make it compact enough to fit into grocery stores and it has an open, transparent layout so shoppers can watch it work while reassuring them as to the bread's quality. In addition, its 10-loaves-per-hour output is based on interviews with shop owners to determine the ideal rate.

The BreadBot uses dry ingredients that are loaded into a hopper. The device is then programmed using an app that sets the water temperature, mixer speed, proofer humidity, and loaf height for the chosen variety, as well as the start and stop times throughout the day. Programs can be set up to three months in advance and allow for hot bread to be available throughout the day instead of just at one or two times.

The BreadBot can be set to start up to three hours before opening time to allow for pre-warming and then run for up to 24 hours using self-monitoring sensors, with the human staff required only for mixing ingredients and running the finished loaves through a bread slicer. The machine is mostly self-cleaning with only a manual wipe-down required. It can even inform the staff when it needs attention, such as refilling ingredients or removing finished loaves.

"Bread is a staple of American life. But in most supermarkets today, it has lost its emotional connection with the shopper," says Randall Wilkinson, CEO of The Wilkinson Baking Company. "In the age of home delivery, The BreadBot attracts consumers back to the store because it delivers fresh, delicious bread that is produced with theater and engagement. We're so excited to bring CES back to basics with The BreadBot this year and to demonstrate how we have increased a retailers' bread sales by more than 30 percent while also decreasing the environmental impact."

The BreadBot will be on display and baking during CES.

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