For supermarkets, the perpetual question is: how can stores make sure they have enough of the fresh foods their customers crave at just the right, ripe moment, while minimizing losses from past-its-prime or expired offerings? Supermarkets have already handled a host of challenges over the past year, from toilet paper shortages and delivery bottlenecks to e-commerce logistics and social distancing in the aisles.
More and more retailers are getting set to tackle this problem, as they work to reduce food waste, boost efficiency, stay competitive and meet customer expectations during the ongoing pandemic.
Afresh Technologies, a San Francisco-based start-up, is on the cutting edge of helping to make this happen. The first AI-powered grocery optimization platform specializing in the unique challenges of fresh food, Afresh raised $25 million in Series A funding in 2020, for a total of nearly $33 million since 2018. The company says that grocers using its AI solutions have increased fresh food sales by 3%, reduced in-store food waste by up to 50%, and increased fresh gross margin by 4%.
Forbes.com quoted Matt Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of Afresh, as saying: “Our big vision was to create a technology company that focused ruthlessly on fresh food — that is, all the idiosyncrasies and complexities of those products. We believe that makes fresh food less wasteful, far more efficient and profitable, and more accessible to as many people as possible.”
According to Schwartz, the grocery industry has typically been slow to move away from manual methods and outdated technology because, for the most part, it hasn’t had to. However, increased competition from Amazon and other e-commerce options means supermarkets must find ways to reduce costs and meet customer demands.