How AI can enhance meals freshness and cut back meals waste

One of the biggest challenges for food retailers is waste. When grocers have more inventory than demand requires, they are bound to face discounting (which eats into already tight margins) or spoilage (which weighs on their bottom line and negatively impacts sustainability efforts).

By Johanna Smaros, Co-Founder and CMO of RELEX Solutions.

Johanna Smaros, Co-Founder and CMO of RELEX Solutions.

The cost of food waste to the Australian economy is estimated at around US$20 billion a year. Australian consumers throw away around 3.1 million tonnes of food – that's nearly 17,000 grounded 747 jumbo jets. Another 2.2 million tons are disposed of by trade and industry. The impact of food waste also includes the energy, fuel and water used to grow food that cannot be used. When food waste goes to landfill, it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing food waste is a complex challenge that also presents a number of opportunities to use technology to rethink how food waste can be prevented. Based on highly accurate forecasts generated through the use of AI and machine learning, retailers can improve order accuracy while maximizing sales and minimizing waste. More importantly, this foundation future-proofs retailers' technology strategy as the industry continues to move toward an AI-driven future.

In 2021, RELEX announced they had partnered with Coles to provide unified retail planning solutions to streamline their end-to-end supply chain planning for fresh produce categories as well as their long-term inventory planning capabilities. Centralizing control of the replenishment model will enable Coles to increase efficiencies in one of our most complex supply chains and improve the customer experience through more targeted assortments, improved availability, fresher products and simpler processes for Coles team members and suppliers.

While some grocers like Coles have made great strides with their initiatives to reduce the amount of food going to landfill, the industry as a whole can do much more to prevent waste from occurring in the first place. Grocery retailers need to do serious work to reduce food waste not just in each local store but throughout the supply chain. By investing in modern supply chain planning and optimization technology, grocery retailers can improve profitability while improving sustainability. In our experience, retailers have reduced food waste by 10-40% while maintaining or even improving on-shelf availability and perishable freshness.

When food retailers reduce waste and spoilage, everyone wins: customers can find the items they need, when they need them, with the highest quality possible; Sustainability efforts are being improved across the board; and margins – and profits – can be protected. By relying on AI and machine learning to generate highly accurate forecasts, retailers can succeed in their endeavors at levels they only dreamed of just a few years ago.

About Johanna Smaros

Johanna Småros, PhD is RELEX's Chief Marketing Officer and one of the three co-founders along with Mikko Kärkkäinen and Michael Falck. She also serves on the company's board of directors.

As a researcher, Johanna has pioneered collaborative planning and forecasting between retailers and suppliers, sharing and leveraging point-of-sale (POS) data in supply chains, and automated store ordering. As a champion of technological innovation that pragmatically solves retail challenges, Johanna remains actively involved in RELEX research and development. She received the Young Scientist Entrepreneur Award in 2014 and the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award in 2017.

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About RELEX solutions

RELEX Solutions is dedicated to helping retail companies improve their competitiveness through localized assortment, profitable use of retail space, accurate forecasting and replenishment, and optimized workforce planning. Trusted by leading brands such as Coles, Baby Bunting and Delivery Hero, RELEX Solutions has offices in Melbourne, Asia, Europe and the US.

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