The Game of Life, created by Milton Bradley, is intended to be a fun way to mimic life – you’re born, you decide to pursue a college degree or go directly to work, you get married, have kids, lose your job, lose a turn. It’s a race to the finish, but life often has its delays along the way.

This process through the life-cycle is similar for fresh produce.

In “The Game of Shelf-Life,” produce such as strawberries or lettuce is harvested, field-packed, rushed to the pack house, pre-cooled, warehoused, shipped in a properly-refrigerated trailer, promptly received and handled at the distribution center. After those steps, the produce is then shipped to the retailer – all with sufficient shelf-life to ensure delivered freshness for sale and consumption…

Unless you lose a turn or two along the way.

When produce is harvested, it has a “freshness capacity” or maximum shelf-life. From that point, harvest conditions and post-harvest processing impact the shelf-life of the product. Strawberries may have 12 days of freshness capacity. However, if the product sits in the field on a hot afternoon for a few hours while the pallets are being loaded onto the truck, there are bottlenecks in the receiving yard or delays for pre-cooling, the shelf-life will be dramatically impacted, perhaps by five days or more.

Every hour at field heat can reduce shelf-life by a day.

The problem is that using visual inspection or pulping won’t reveal this loss of shelf-life and the supplier may end up shipping a pallet with only six or seven days of shelf-life across the country – a five-day trip – and it arrives with one or two days of shelf-life. As a result, it may be rejected at the distribution center or spoil on the store shelf. This leads to waste of the product and lost profits for the grower and grocer. It’s not a game when margins are razor thin for suppliers and retailers.

Freshness management helps eliminate the bumps in the road by enabling you to “see” the issues impacting shelf-life so you can address and account for them. If you identify operational bottlenecks such as trucks waiting at the docks to unload while product sits in the sun, you can adjust workflows. This not only improves freshness, but also operational efficiency and reduce costs as precious labor resources aren’t sitting idling in trucks. On another hand, for freshness management, if you find that one pallet has six days of remaining shelf-life and another has 10 days, you can ship the one with lesser shelf-life locally and the other across country so both will be received with sufficient shelf-life for customer satisfaction.

Freshness management makes it easier for you to win “The Game of Shelf-life.” Learn more by reading our white paper on Proactive Freshness Management.