Do you have complete cold chain visibility for your fresh produce? Are you getting the freshest produce, or is your competitor down the street? Where do you rank? Why is it important? According to FMI’s Grocery Shopper Trends 2018, 80 percent of shoppers decide where to shop because of high quality fruits and vegetables. That’s the top reason people choose a grocery store. The question is, are they choosing your store or are they going to your competitor? Many retailers lack cold chain visibility and assume that the produce that they’re receiving at the distribution center has uniform shelf-life and that the shelf-life can be accurately measured by using the harvest date. That is, strawberries with projected shelf-life of 12 days that have been in the cold supply chain for five days should still have seven days of shelf-life. The problem is that the strawberries often don’t. (And, this isn’t just about strawberries! It’s about leafy greens and other shelf-life challenged produce too.)

Retailers Lack Cold Chain Visibility

Certainly, produce suppliers always try to deliver the freshest produce to their retail customers. But, due to changes in harvest conditions, delays in processing and the impact of temperature from field to store, there’s significant variation in shelf-life of the produce received by retailers, often a week or more. This isn’t reflected in the harvest date. And, you can’t see this variation in delivered shelf-life until the produce begins to spoil. By then, it’s too late to do anything about it, the produce spoils and is wasted at the distribution center, retail store shelf – or perhaps worse – with the consumer, causing them to wonder about the freshness and quality of the products at your store and making them wonder if they should change stores

Cold Chain Visibility Case Study Findings

In a recent study we did involving strawberries being sent to a major US retailer, we found significant variance in shelf-life. As can be seen in the bar chart above, shelf-life varied at delivery from zero days (meaning they’d spoiled at delivery) to up to ten days. That’s a significant variation. But, what’s even more concerning, is 88.5 percent of the berries arrived with six or fewer days of shelf-life meaning that they would spoil on the store shelf or before the consumer can enjoy it with four days of shelf-life. 88.5% – that’s an astonishing number. Download a copy of the case study for more details.

The Impact on Your Business

You need complete cold chain visibility. Why? Because your customer expects to find the freshest strawberries,lettuce and other produce at your store. But, if they find mushy, molding berries or limp or browning lettuce, will they come back to your store? Or, will they drive to your competitor’s store only a few blocks away in hopes of finding better quality and freshness?

Food Spoilage - Bad for Business

These berries spoiled the day after I bought them.

Not long ago I bought a clam shell of strawberries at my favorite grocery store. The next morning, I found it rotting in my refrigerator! I took it back to the store and they offered to replace it. I went to the strawberry section and looked at the clam shells. Many, perhaps half, had rotting berries! A family of four will spend almost $550 per month on groceries. What happens if ten families decide to take their business elsewhere because of poor produce freshness that they experience at your store? That’s $5,500 per month or $66,000 per year in lost revenues across their entire shopping cart. If you have a thousand stores, that’s about $66 million in lost business. It should be worth your time to solve this problem.

Cold Chain Visibility: Zest Fresh Knows

What if there was a way to know and ensure the freshness of the produce you receive and have complete visibility of your cold supply chain? Zest Fresh knows. Zest Fresh provides visibility about what’s happening in your cold supply chain – and it provides the ability to manage for variation. Zest Fresh is not a shelf-life extender. While extenders may be able to help with certain types of produce, they have limitations, and they cannot tell you the dynamic remaining shelf-life of your produce. They do not provide you with complete cold chain visibility. Only Zest Fresh can tell you the dynamic remaining shelf-life of fresh produce (or meats and proteins for that matter) and provide you with harvest to store cold chain visibility. We determine the maximum potential shelf-life of your produce (including by varietal, location, harvest conditions) and then use predictive analytics to calculate the impact of time and temperature to determine the actual remaining shelf-life for each pallet of berries, leafy greens, grapes, cherries, celery and other fresh foods. With Zest Fresh, you’ll know the actual freshness of each pallet and, with complete cold chain visibility, you can better manage your fresh food supply chain. You can ensure that all of the produce you purchase meets your freshness requirements. Produce won’t spoil on your shelves or when your customer takes it home. You’ll reduce store waste (by 50 percent or more) and you’ll know that your customers will always receive the freshest produce that won’t spoil at their homes before they can enjoy it. They’ll keep coming back for more. And, they may even tell their friends and neighbors about the great produce they buy at your store.

Find Out What Zest Fresh Knows About Your Produce

It’s easy to find out the shelf-life variability of the produce you’re receiving, and it requires no change in processes. To get started, simply identify one type of produce (such as strawberries, hearts of romaine, grapes, etc.) and we can document your shelf-life variation. Maybe it’s minimal, but maybe it’s significant. In either case, this level of cold chain visibility and insights into the freshness of your product to help you improve the delivered freshness of your produce – and keep your customers loyal and coming back for more. Please email me to learn more about a Zest Fresh Knows trial or visit our website.