Solutions for Retail and Transportation

By Bob Violino
Posted on September 19, 2016


Sep 19, 2016—

Reducing Food Waste in Groceries

Retailers can use Avery Dennison's tags to track totes in the supply chain and perishable items in stores.

Food retailers face many challenges when it comes to keeping their shelves well stocked with a wide variety of fresh perishable items, including dairy, meat and produce. Managing inventory and rotating stock—including tracking sell-by dates—are labor-intensive processes. Expired foods must be discarded, which impacts a store's bottom line.

Most food retailers use bar codes to manage inventory, says James Stafford, global head of food RFID development at Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions(RBIS). But manual processes are inefficient, he says, and packages that need to be moved can be inadvertently overlooked when a store is busy or during shift changes

The AD-229 tag (pictured at right) is designed for item-level tracking. The label is accurate at low temperatures and in the presence of foods with high water content. (Photo: Avery Dennison)

To automate tracking perishables in the supply chain and within stores, Avery Dennison RBIS developed three passive ultrahigh-frequency EPC RFID tags specifically for the food industry. The company is working with several major food retailers in the United States and Europe on pilot programs to confirm the benefits of RFID's use on fresh foods at both the distribution and item levels, Stafford says.

In the supply chain, Stafford says, "We needed an RFID tag that could be used on disposable delivery cartons and also a waterproof encapsulated version that could withstand multiple washing cycles over many years when placed on returnable totes." Both versions are based on the AD-237 inlay incorporated into a label.

"Totes are a very efficient way of managing the inventory of cheaper fresh foods with a short shelf life, such as dairy products or produce," Stafford says. Attaching a permanent RFID tag allows totes to be tracked accurately and quickly throughout the supply chain, he says, and helps ensure 100 percent delivery accuracy to the final destination. Because the same tag is used on multiple journeys, he adds, this is a cost-effective way of deploying the technology.

The AD-229 tag is designed for item-level tracking. The label is accurate at low temperatures and in the presence of foods with high water content, such as meat and poultry, Stafford says. "For higher-value perishable products, such as meat, each individual package can benefit from its own RFID tag," he explains, "so we needed to design tags that could be attached to the existing food packaging by the manufacturer and would work well in a refrigerated environment.

"A further consideration is that a customer may accidentally forget to remove the food packaging and place it in a microwave," Stafford says. "We are refining our AD-229 design to ensure it is safe in these circumstances."