AI ‘could save grocers £144m in food waste annually’

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help the UK’s eight largest grocery retailers prevent £144 million of food waste a year.

This is according to data scientists from Blue Yonder, a JDA company., who suggested that more intelligent decision-making could help the UK’s ‘Big Eight’ supermarkets - Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, the Co-Operative, Waitrose and Lidl - each reduce food wastage by on average seven tonnes per year.

“Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword, it could really make-or-break grocery retailers over the coming years,” says Michael Feindt, founder and chief scientist at Blue Yonder. “Retailers know they must take serious action; using AI and ML across their supply chains provides a tangible way for them to cut food waste.

Blue Yonder suggested that AI and ML can deliver four key benefits.

Firstly, it pointed to improved demand forecasting. The basis of minimising food waste is to forecast as accurately as possible, and with AI grocery retailers can now significantly improve their accuracy by taking into account hundreds of forecast factors such as weather, day of week or time of year.

Secondly, by understanding the risk of lost sales and wastage, retailers can now ensure the right balance when managing inventory – individually for every item in every store. Not only does this cut food waste, it also makes the stock ordering process a less labour-intensive task and can improve shelf presentation.

AI can also put grocery retailers in a better position to set the right price than ever before, finding the right balance between selling at a profit and clearing stock that’s going out of date. By gradually reducing items rather than following rigid markdown procedures, they can boost profitability and ensure products sell, the report stated.

Finally, by analysing a range of factors including weather, time of day and expiration date of products, ML can advise how to react to potential disruptions or help to avoid them altogether.

Wayne Snyder, vice president for retail industry strategy EMEA at JDA, commented: “Supply chains are the ideal place for grocery retailers to practice what they preach when it comes to making sustainability gains.

“Through using AI and Machine Learning, grocery retailers can better optimise their supply chain operations, ensuring the right amount of goods are on store shelves.”

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