IoT could be the key to ending food spoilage in grocery stores
Connected devices are emerging as a new way for grocers to reduce losses due to food spoilage and energy waste. With bottom line benefits like these, it’s not surprising to see some of the biggest in the business already putting Internet of Things (IoT) technology to work to improve their operating results.
Walmart has been using IoT tech for such tasks as monitoring food temperature and equipment energy output, according to Talk Business. One IoT application monitors refrigeration units that house products like ice cream frozen and milk cold. It also reports back to a maintenance team if sensors indicate equipment problems so they can be fixed early with minimal downtime and without serious malfunctions. IoT solutions are used so broadly throughout Walmart’s massive store footprint that its connected devices send a total of 1.5 billion messages per day.
Throughout grocery, IoT is being leveraged to improve food safety and reduce excessive energy consumption, according to the World Economic Forum. IoT solutions have allowed food retailers to reduce food loss by 40 percent and experience a net energy savings of 30 percent.
In 2018, it was estimated that grocers were losing on average $70 million per year to food spoilage, with the largest chains losing in the hundreds of millions.
IoT is not the only sustainability-focused technology that large grocers have implemented in recent years.
In 2018 and 2019, there were reports of grocers as prominent as Kroger installing anaerobic digesters in select locations. The machines chemically break down waste, reducing the amount of discarded food that ends up in landfills. While anaerobic digesters do not address the issue of waste created unnecessarily in-store through spoilage, they move grocers closer to the goal of placing zero waste in landfills.
Reducing waste, saving energy and preventing food spoilage are good practices not just for grocery store profitability, but for giving customers the retail experience they want. Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, U.S. customers were increasingly focused on environmental issues and interested in patronizing stores that expressed a strong commitment to sustainability.
Many retailers, brands and municipalities, however, put a pause on sustainability initiatives at the beginning of the pandemic as concerns mounted that some environmentally-minded moves could work at cross-purposes with preventing viral spread.
- The Supply Side: Walmart using IoT on food quality, sustainability efforts – Talk Business
- How data is driving sustainability in food retail – World Economic Forum
- Has food waste become mission critical for grocers’ bottom lines and the planet? – RetailWire
- Can grocers digest their way to zero waste – RetailWire
- Is business too busy saving itself to save the environment? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the biggest benefits you see from grocers’ use of IoT solutions? Will these solutions become regular fixtures in grocery or will the upfront investment and learning curve remain too steep for some time?