Paul Boyle Retail Insight

Paul Boyle

Over the last year, supermarkets have invested heavily in their sustainability agendas. Asda is the latest to announce that it is rolling out more packaging free zones in its stores to limit plastics, whilst other retailers such as Waitrose pledged earlier in the year to redistribute food waste.

Now, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is encouraging retailers to further expand their use of green technologies if they want to reach net-zero emissions targets, which is the next step forwards for retailers battling to become more eco-friendly across their supply chains.

Despite these efforts to invest in sustainability and waste reduction, data from UK sustainability charity Wrap reveals that food waste across the UK is ever increasing. Moreover, according to our own research at Retail Insight, we estimate that total waste bills at British supermarkets in 2021 will be over £2.4bn, with 43 per cent of this available for donation or thrown in the bin.

Looking beyond food redistribution

The donation of food waste to charities and food banks remains a vital part of the redistribution process and should continue where it is possible. However, sometimes this is not the most appropriate solution, particularly when it comes to fresh produce, as one further step in the supply chain can reduce the products’ life down to a level where food banks aren’t able to accept it.

For retailers, the process of redistribution can also incur additional expense, whether that’s the actual cost of food that is wasted or administering stock donations in-store. Retailers are already conscious of how they can manage costs and protect profitability, so it is in their best interest to ensure they can avoid wastage where they can.

How tech can solve fresh produce waste

However, there is a simple and effective way for retailers to maintain low costs and increase sales of fresh produce approaching expiry. This is via the adoption of dynamic and prompted markdown technology.Woman in supermarket on tablet

This dynamic markdown technology relies on an algorithm to adjust pricing in real-time so that retailers can get the most out of a product before it expires. Prompted markdown helps to identify and alert when a product is about to expire well in advance, so that retailers can adjust with the best markdown price ahead of time.

The use of dynamic markdown technology in-store is revolutionising the way that retailers handle waste. Not only will retailers be able to pinpoint which products are at risk of expiring and adjust their prices accordingly, but the tech also takes into account other factors such as demand for a specific product, the time of day and store location, where stock and demand can vary.

The best product markdown price is not always going to be the highest price, but for retailers and suppliers it is a more appropriate way to keep the cost of waste down, as well as shift more fresh produce. It also improves the customers shopping experience, as they will be rewarded with lower prices at the till, something that can potentially increase long-term loyalty and favourability.

Whilst some grocers have been marking down fresh produce before expiry for decades, typically it has been managed manually and with very little science to the pricing and this process can cause many products to be wasted at greater cost.

Failure to identify items at risk of being wasted, no dynamic store-based pricing and poor compliance to price change processes are all factors that lead retailers to lose sales on fresh produce with many days of life left.

Protecting everyone’s best interests

Dynamic markdown is a more streamlined and sophisticated method to help ensure the smooth running of store operations and protect both the retailer and consumers’ best interests.

Not only will it cut costs so that retailers can better invest elsewhere – perhaps even towards more sustainability initiatives – but it can also speed up processes.

Moreover, it can provide more accurate decisions and guide action so that staff in-store are able to be more efficient and dedicate their time towards other responsibilities to enhance the shopping experience for customers.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, retailers have not slowed down their CSR efforts, with impact investors and consumers placing huge importance on the achievement of sustainability targets. The battle to combat waste is a significant part of this goal and retailers need to ensure they adopt the right technology to support this process.

Winning in fresh is a vital part of many retailers’ strategies to win and addressing the food waste challenge with the best possible process and technology should ensure the supplier, the retailer and consumer are not missing out on the right sale.