"One of the biggest challenges for the food industry is the movement into omnichannel retail," Vargas states. "What we're doing, as a whole, is solving the biggest challenges that face the retail market today," she explains, by helping retailers to understand food products' locations and status automatically.
Freshmarx solutions are also being offered to help the industry automate food labeling, thereby ensuring food safety and compliance. The Freshmarx suite includes Freshmarx Nutrition, Freshmarx 9417+ and Tablet Systems, Freshmarx Food Donate and Waste, Freshmarx Task Tracker and Freshmarx Temperature Tracker, in addition to proprietary Freshmarx Prep software, Freshmarx Delivery, handheld labelers, and stock and custom labeling supplies.
Freshmarx Nutrition automates the labeling of goods with nutrition and calorie information. Avery Dennison's solution includes ESHA Research's ESHA Genesis R&D Food Formulation Software to calculate and import nutrition information for ingredients and recipes, thus eliminating the need for manual entry.
The Freshmarx Tablet System combines Avery Dennison's 9485 portable printer with the Freshmarx Prep software application running on an Apple iPad. The Freshmarx Food Donate and Waste system, meanwhile, enables users to track food waste, as well as label and log goods for donation. The system uses a weigh scale to measure and automatically capture details about food that is being discarded or donated so restaurants can analyze food waste and optimize inventory costs.
Reducing food waste is a key challenge for the industry, Vargas says. According to a 2013 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 200 million tons of food intended for human consumption are wasted every year. The goal of multiple agencies, as well as companies in the food industry, is to bring that percentage of waste down, in part by better managing supply chain inventory and expirations so spoilage will not occur prematurely.
RFID technology can enable easier access to data about goods that will soon expire, so that they can then be treated as high-priority sales—such as by lowering the price of those items, or by providing incentives for customers to purchase them. Avery Dennison estimates that RFID could reduce food loss at stores by as much as 20 percent.
Freshmarx Task Tracker is a cloud-based digital checklist application that can be customized to manage non-food task execution, such as kitchen processes. In this way, paper logs are eliminated and checklist data is stored digitally and is thus available for analysis to ensure that food processed in a designated area is not contaminated.
Lastly, the Freshmarx Temp Tracker automates temperature monitoring within refrigerators at restaurants and stores to automatically identify if those temperatures fall outside of acceptable parameters. The Freshmarx Temp Tracker sensors, which Avery Dennison released last month, transmit data via a cellular network to the cloud-based server, and can alert individuals to any potential problems.
"Avery Dennison is an 80-year-old company," Vargas says, "with our origins around adhesive labelling," but it has since become a provider of digital identity management products and solutions. "It's an interesting time of disruption for the market," she reports. "We really put an emphasis on food safety, freshness and efficiency."
While retailers try to keep up with consumers' changing needs and the variety of new sales channels, Vargas says, "I think there's incredible potential with RFID" to make channel management easier. Several retailers and food companies are preparing to launch RFID-based pilots, she adds, though these businesses are not yet willing to be named.