Retailers including Jumbo and Migros have apparently recorded higher avocado sales and reduction in waste thanks to arrival of AI-based checkpoints

OneThird Jumbo avocado ripeness tester

The device tells shoppers how ripe their avocados are

Image: OneThird, Jumbo

Supermarkets across Europe have started to employ AI-based freshness scanners that could eventually tell shoppers if a number of different fruits are ripe before they buy them.

Dozens of the devices have already been installed in branches of Jumbo in the Netherlands and Migros in Switzerland, as well as some in Spain.

In the next few weeks, one of Germany’s biggest retail chains is also expected to begin a pilot project to trial the system. And Fruitnet understands discussions are underway to bring the technology to stores in the UK.

At present, the scanners can only be used to test the ripeness of avocados. But they could soon be programmed to check other products including mangoes, melons, and kiwifruit.

The idea that consumers themselves might use AI to check products in store has apparently been met with near incredulity in some circles.

Some have even suggested that news of Jumbo’s new scanners is an early April Fool’s prank. But that is certainly not the case.

“It’s real, it’s happening,” says Marco Snikkers of Dutch company OneThird, which developed the scanners’ shelf-life prediction technology. “To be honest, we’re totally overwhelmed and surprised by the positive feedback we have got.”

OneThird Migros scanner

A Migros staff member shows how to use the checkpoint

Image: OneThird

Waste control

Interest in the scanners as an in-store device to aid consumers was apparently driven by concern among some retailers that shoppers would squeeze avocados to test them for ripeness, and in doing so cause damage which rendered them unfit for sale.

“We were sceptical at first,” says Snikkers. OneThird’s focus has previously been on the installation of ripeness checking systems further back along fresh produce supply chains, not in stores themselves. “So, we’ve been really careful to go step by step, to test it behind the scenes,” he tells Fruitnet.

Following a small-scale test in one of Jumbo’s stores, interest has apparently grown fast.

“Consumers love it,” Snikkers adds. “It’s something new in the store and it brings excitement.Our customers say they are increasing their sales of avocados. And with that maybe other products, for example if the shopper wants to do a guacamole with tomatoes and other things.”

Retailers have since enquired about the possibility to programme the scanners so that they can check other products like mangos, melons, and kiwifruit.

In principle, that should be possible but will take time, Snikkers suggests. “Our system is AI-based, and to make AI work you need data. On mangoes, we already have quite a lot of data. So I think we will be able to release that relatively soon. On melons and kiwifruit, that’s going to take a little bit longer.”

Jumbo Ranstad OneThird ripeness scanner

The ripeness checkers have apparently boosted sales of other products

Image: OneThird