Even before COVID-19, the world was firmly off-track to meet the United Nation’s target of zero hunger by 2030. Now soaring food prices, unsuccessful harvests and the fall-out from the pandemic have made it even more challenging to reach this goal.
According to Action Against Hunger, one in nine people are hungry or undernourished, while in 2020, 2.37 billion people around the world did not have enough access to safe and nutritious food. Yet, in spite of this, every year around one third of the food produced globally is wasted or lost. Not only is this completely at odds with the global humanitarian crisis, but it also has a huge bearing on climate change. Global warming is a serious problem for our generation and reducing food waste is critical for cutting carbon emissions and creating a safer, healthier planet.
While consumers certainly have a significant part to play in this problem – accounting for around 53% of food waste in Europe and 43% in the US – retailers are not without fault. According to the UN Environment Programme, a whopping 13% of all food waste generated around the world comes from the retail sector highlighting that while retailers certainly are making strides to improve this figure, there is still a great deal of work to do.
However, the issue doesn’t start with the retailers. In fact, it begins at the very early stages of the supply chain when the food is produced and continues right through the process, with items being lost and damaged in transportation from farms to distribution centres and then to retail. When it arrives with the retailer, the causes of waste are many and varied – from fluctuations in seasonal product supply of fresh food, changes in consumer demand, inappropriate sizes or packaging, visual defects to and damage to food or a basic lack of consumer understanding surrounding date codes. While this can have serious consequences from an environmental and societal point of view, store operators are also increasingly realising the financial implications that wasted food can bring. As such, retailers are under mounting pressure to take critical steps to address the problem.
While we have seen that there are many issues leading to surplus food at store level, one of the main contributors to this problem is unsold products being cast aside because of their expiry dates. Whatever the reason, the nub of the problem can be traced back to a basic lack of efficiency in managing inventory sell-by dates.
One way of tackling the issue is by offering retailers total visibility of their inventory at any given time, providing them with the option of better balancing their stock. This not only ensures that brand owners have a view of their merchandise and its location within the supply chain, but that they reduce lost sales and improve efficiency.
At Checkpoint Systems, we recently developed and launched the RFreshID® solution, which enables retailers to manage inventory and precisely plan when replenishments are required and ensure expiring products can be sold before they are removed from shelf. Customers using the solution have already noted reduced food waste levels by as much as 60%, while also the time spent required to manually check items has decreased by up to 78%. Improvements in inventory accuracy were also noted, achieving up to 99.99% in the stock room and up to 99% on the sales floor. By improving cycle count times, reducing waste and accurately managing expiry dates, retailers can enjoy an uplift in sales thanks to increased product availability.
High-performance RFID labels are automatically applied during the production process, meaning retailers receive products already tagged that can be quickly verified. This not only improves the accuracy of shipments distributed from the point of manufacture but ensures accurate, timely deliveries in store. Store personnel are provided with intuitive handheld devices that quickly and accurately count and locate specific items, working in conjunction with RFreshID reporting software to deliver real-time actionable data that includes insights on replenishment, expiration, markdown, waste reports, products to restock and order, as well as items that are about to expire or have expired. Completing the cycle from delivery to disposal, RFreshID waste process provides insights into the amount of fresh produce that has expired and automatically removes the product from inventory records.
The shelf life of fresh produce presents a unique challenge for grocery retailers. With RFID technology becoming increasingly accessible to retailers of all kinds, improvements in inventory management and replenishment can be achieved quickly at an exceptional ROI. By deploying innovative RFID solutions in the grocery sector, retailers will not only see a marked improvement in stock rotation and sales but crucially reduce current levels of avoidable and food waste. As a result, they will be able to enjoy an increase in sales and ultimately profit.