Eye on AI - January 13th, 2023
Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!
Our focus turns to food waste this week as we look into how AI can help the grocery industry reclaim $2B worth of wasted food each year before cutting into a new tool that measures the ripeness of avocados.
How AI Could Help Grocery Stores Save $2B In Wasted Revenue Each Year
Food waste is inevitable in the grocery industry. But the degree to which food is wasted can always be improved. In fact, according to a recent survey referenced in the article “How Grocers Can Use Artificial Intelligence to Reduce Food Waste,” grocery stores lose more than $2B in food waste due to operational and logistical pitfalls each year in the U.S. alone. Recent studies suggest that the number could be significantly reduced with AI.
“While some waste in supermarkets will always be unavoidable, one underutilized solution can make significant progress in reducing supermarket-level fresh food waste right now – artificial intelligence," the study noted. “To the untrained eye, supermarkets may already seem optimized in terms of stocking rates and waste reduction. This is far from reality. In practice, more than 30 percent of fresh produce becomes surplus.”
To grasp the full impact of AI on operation costs, two national grocery retailers tested Shelf Engine, an AI used to predict orders for fresh items, and/or Afresh, a solution that helps manage fresh food inventory, forecasting, ordering, merchandising and operations, at more than 1,300 stores across the U.S. Using those technologies, participating stores saw reduced shrink and increased sales, margins, and labor efficiencies in as little as eight weeks. Tests also showed that stores were better able to track inventory, real-time sales data, and trends to better predict demand.
“This in turn positions stores to have the right products in stock at the right time, higher sales, and less frequent out-of-stock goods,” the study noted. “By right-sizing what is actually brought to a store based on more accurate demand anticipation, stores can lower their waste and increase food waste prevention.”
Looking at those results, it might be easy to assume that AI would be the cure-all for food waste. However, there are many factors that come into play for its success. Things like data cleanliness and organization, dispersed systems, implementation bottlenecks, and team buy-in all factor in. As for our take: if there’s a chance a grocery chain could replicate the results of this test, these and similar AI solutions are at the very least worth an evaluation.
New Tech Helps Shoppers ID’s Perfectly Ripe Avocados
Speaking of food waste, there’s perhaps no avocado-lover among us who hasn’t experienced the disappointment of finding their green treat at a less-than-ideal level of ripeness. According to the article “This Tool Solves the Age-Old Problem of Avocado Ripeness and Fights Food Waste, Too,” such problems may soon be the stuff of the past.
“Dutch company OneThird developed a tool to solve these issues so that avocado-lovers can finally perfect avocado toast—and eliminate food waste along the way,” writes VegNews contributor Anna Starostinetskaya. “OneThird works in a simple way: shoppers scan the avocado in question and the tool reveals its remaining shelf life in real time using an artificial intelligence-powered optical scanner.”
The tool was created after OneThird’s founders noticed how much food was being wasted. After repurposing a solution they used for testing medical devices, they’re now able to help growers, distributors, and customers accurately predict the ripeness of not only avocados, but also strawberries, blueberries, and tomatoes.
Understanding ripeness helps with better shipping and delivery logistics, more accurate ‘best by’ dates, and sourcing the right products for individual store or customer needs. Other technologies, such as Apeel’s plant-based spray, which keeps food fresher longer while eliminating the need for plastic wrappers, are also being used to help to address the food waste issue. Working in conjunction, these systems could go a long way in reducing the global food waste footprint.
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