"Sustainability is not a goal to be reached but a way of thinking, a way of being, a principle we must be guided by."
Food Retailers are taking their sustainability responsibilities seriously, making it core to their business models. They have a brilliant opportunity to find solutions to two of the most recent challenges in the industry: 1. to be able to reduce waste, and 2. to fight climate change.
Moreover, a growing mismatch between supply and demand could wipe out the profits of the entire food industry in the nearest future. It’s imperative to address all these issues with the help of technology. In this data-driven era, the IoT (Internet Of Things) can manifest history, analyze patterns and transform the local food retailer’s sustainability through proven reductions in food losses and energy savings.
According to the UN Environment Programme, about one-third of the world’s food supply, which amounts to nearly one trillion dollars, goes to waste. Among the issues of population explosion to supply chain disruption, to food shortages, the need to eliminate waste has become more important than ever for consumers and retailers alike.
A survey suggests that after the pandemic, about 48% of consumers have become more environmentally conscious and about 55% were more likely to purchase eco-friendly food packages. The World Economic Forum states that the advantages of IoT concerning sustainability can also bring financial benefit by increasing efficiency and reducing waste.
IoT technology is the most genius invention ever in the path of sustainability. It uses sensors at the retail stores that collect relevant data like the quality of the food stock and the temperature around. This can send a signal to the retailers to track the energy performance and the health of their stores. Hence with its omnipresent feature, IoT warns for an action plan before a problem arises.
Statistics suggest that via IoT solutions there is already a 40% reduction in food waste as a result of temperature monitoring. IoT also led to a 30% savings of total net energy through peak load optimization and reducing overall consumption. In an impressive feat, IoT solutions have saved $37 million for food retailers by cutting food waste over the last five years alone. This has kept our air free of more than 2 million tons of Carbon Dioxide.
Another data enhancer, a blockchain, is like a digital ledger that records and reports the movement of goods throughout the supply chain. The food product is scanned at various points along its journey from the farm to the store. It gives accessibility to retailers to be able to manage inventory, maintain quality and eliminate waste through tracing the trail. For example: If any stale food package is mixed with any of the good ones, scanning all the packages can trace the source of them and the affected package can be pulled out from the lot for sale. The wastage is minimal in this process.
Radio Frequency Identification tags are a type of tracking device that uses barcodes to provide product information. It allows retailers instant access to the information relating to the product’s movements, demand, inventory level via the supply chain. It’s also used to track the freshness and quality of the product. With this knowledge, retailers can pull out the expired and near expired products from the chain.
The reports collected or tracked via Blockchain or RFID are not time-bound. It implies that by the time the products are tracked down for the loss of quality, it would have incurred costs to move up the supply chain. Prescriptive analytics simplifies the process of tracking with timelines and actionability. For example: “Suppose perishable units on pallet #332 are at the risk of spoilage. Action plan: Move to proper coolers immediately”. This action would direct the product manager to get straight to the source to avoid any further loss.
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IoT is no longer limited to accessibility or availability. We must see how to employ the best of technology so that businesses, organizations, and decision-makers all work together to create a framework that will scale IoT implementation and maximize sustainability opportunities. Though it will cost more than the standard manual procedure, think of all the energy saved and waste avoided.
With a clarity of the location, quality, and quantity of the inventory, retailers can increase their profit margins, check on the waste generated, and satisfy their customers by giving them a sustainable product. Awareness about proper IoT’s potential to improve food safety, equipment monitoring, and an openness to innovation can make sustainability successful in the food retail business benefitting the business and the society.
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A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.