Food Freshness Management

Freshness management is a new approach for solving the decades old fresh food waste problem. Zest Fresh™ is the industry’s first food freshness management solution that proactively prevents fresh food waste before it happens.

The Cost of Food Waste

America wastes 40 percent of its food, according to the National Resource Defense Council. Further, 12 percent of fruits and 10 percent of vegetables are wasted at the retailer, and even more is wasted by consumers, many of whom watch produce spoil prematurely before they consume it. Post-harvest food waste is an $85 billion problem. Beyond that, the food waste that goes into landfills contributes 18 percent of the USA’s greenhouse gas emissions and wastes the precious water, energy and labor resources used to produce it.

No other industry would tolerate this much waste. And, while some grocers and suppliers try to recycle or repurpose it, little has been done to prevent it. Instead, the industry has assumed that food waste cannot be avoided, and it’s just a “cost of doing business.”

A Fresh Approach

To solve the food waste problem, we started by determining the cause of waste in the fresh food supply chain. Studies confirm that most of the factors leading to fresh food waste occur within the first 24 to 48 hours after the product is harvested due to harvest conditions, improper temperature management, cold chain logistics issues and handling variations.

All produce has a definable maximum shelf-life, or freshness capacity. The freshness capacity for produce varies based on harvest quality and conditions, and the impact of time and temperature on the produce from harvest through distribution. These variations – which occur at the individual pallet level – can lead to produce harvested from the same field on the same day to have shelf-life that differs by five days or more. Additional variations can occur at the pallet level throughout the fresh food supply chain as the produce makes its way from the supplier to the retailer, so it is critical to maintain monitoring and management for each pallet from the time it is picked or cut through store delivery to prevent food waste.

Food Freshness Management Explained

None of the issues that lead to food waste are problematic if the fresh food supply chain stakeholders know about them as they’re happening and are provided with the necessary information and insights to act to address issues as they arise. Freshness management provides actionable insights and alerts make food waste preventable.

Zest Fresh provides growers, shippers and grocers with autonomous, end-to-end cold supply chain visibility for proactive decision making. This improves delivered freshness and reduces produce shrink by 50% or more. It addresses the problem of food waste by starting at the source, delivering information and insights that enable field, processing and cold supply chain workers to identify and prevent issues that lead to food waste.

Zest Fresh utilizes wireless IoT temperature sensors, inserted into the pallets at harvest, to autonomously collect data to monitor the produce’s condition and processing. This information, combined with cloud-based predictive analytics and machine learning, delivers the insights that improve freshness management from field to store.

Zest Fresh includes the industry’s first freshness metric, the Zest Intelligent Pallet Routing Code (ZIPR™ Code). The ZIPR Code is a dynamic date code that empowers workers and systems to better manage produce based on actual freshness, rather than relying on the false assumption that the harvest date label accurately represents remaining produce shelf-life.  It provides a way of optimizing inventory and distribution management that ultimately improves delivered freshness, produce margins and customer satisfaction.

With Zest Fresh, a distribution manager knows a strawberry pallet with reduced shelf-life should be sent to a local store or restaurant instead of a long distance. This informed decision at shipment means those strawberries can be consumed at full quality before they spoil, rather than shipping them across the country, requiring five additional days of shelf-life, only to have them spoil in transit or when they arrive. Similarly, with dynamic shelf-life management information, the retail produce manager can prioritize that pallet in inventory, moving it to store shelves earlier while it still has sufficient freshness, avoiding waste and mark-downs and improving customer satisfaction that drives loyalty.

The Benefits of Food Freshness Management

Real-time monitoring and management, combined with predictive analytics improve visibility and decision-making within the fresh food supply chain, reducing waste and improving environmental sustainability and profitability.

Food freshness management is not limited to produce as the same approach can be applied to other temperature-sensitive perishable products including meats, seafood and dairy.

Sending so much of the food we produce to the land-fill doesn’t make sense from an environmental or a business standpoint. Pallet-level freshness management of produce and protein throughout the food supply chain − and providing the information and insights to act on changes in conditions in real-time – reduces food waste and increases delivered freshness and customer satisfaction.

Zest Labs works with retailers including Costco and growers such as Ocean Mist Farms, as well as others, to help improve the fresh food supply chain and operational efficiency. To learn more, please contact us.