Is fresh produce inventory management past its expiry date?

November, 2023

The reinvention economy: from old to new to connected

They say everything old is new again. While that may generally ring true, it’s no longer the entire story. 

New must now be connected. 

Take the humble milk float, a cautiously paced battery electric vehicle and firm fixture of early morning life for millions of people before being ushered into relative dormancy by the one-stop-shop appeal of supermarket giants. Yet with today's consumers calling for fresh produce, low emissions and prompt distribution, combined with the desire to recycle, minimize waste and avoid spoiling, doorstep milk delivery is back with a modernized purpose.

Meet The Modern Milkman, established in England five years ago with a commitment to reduce household waste. With hubs across the UK and by working with a network of British farmers and independent suppliers, the company claims to have prevented over 85 million plastic bottles from polluting the planet. 

How? By opting for – and tracking – traditional glass milk bottles. 

Glass milk bottles can be washed and reused 25-30 times on average before recycling. They are 100% recyclable and can be endlessly recycled with no loss of quality or value, making them an ideal example of items in a closed-loop system.

The good work being done is more than an on-trend environmental push. Much more. It’s also a case study for digitalization. 

But how can you digitize a service that boomed decades ago? The answer lies in the form of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.

With a rich history dating back to 1935, Avery Dennison is a Fortune 500® company that provides, among many other things, RFID inlays and tags to industries worldwide. This  includes home and personal care, apparel, logistics, pharmaceuticals, automotive, and food and grocery.

Avery Dennison’s RFID tags enable the accurate and extensive monitoring of glass milk bottles, forming a test bed for packaging, recycling and digital tracking innovation. The Modern Milkman is believed to be the first business to use RFID tagging technology to identify the end-to-end lifecycle of returnable glass bottles in the UK. The result amounts to a classic with a modern twist. It also serves to tell the Avery Dennison story of alignment; bringing together its materials science (think labels), RFID (think tags) and connected product cloud (think digital ID tracking for full transparency) capabilities.

Avery Dennison is also an investor in The Modern Milkman, and harnesses the company’s agility and innovation to test and trial new concepts with the forward looking team.  

“Our collaboration with Avery Dennison allows us to harness leading global materials science and digital identification capabilities to assure customers of our commitment to people, the planet and innovation.” — Simon Mellin, CEO and founder of The Modern Milkman.

Shruti George, vice president of strategic innovation platforms at Avery Dennison, says: “Connecting the physical and digital is the very essence of what we do as a business. More and more organizations, from start-ups to household names, are realizing the benefits of RFID and how the technology can bring systemic change. This includes greater inventory accuracy, consumer engagement, brand reputation, and loss detection and prevention. Our work with The Modern Milkman highlights RFID technology’s extensive opportunities  and the value in assigning unique digital IDs to track, store and manage all the events associated with an individual product. It also demonstrates the importance we place in working with forward thinking, disruptive young companies who truly believe in a circular business model.”

“Reducing waste and bringing traceable circularity to a service steeped in nostalgia has understandably resonated with many people,” comments Simon Mellin, CEO and founder of The Modern Milkman. “Our collaboration with Avery Dennison allows us to harness leading global materials science and digital identification capabilities to assure customers of our commitment to people, the planet and innovation.”

Moree is another bold young company doing things differently. It’s also a participant of AD Stretch, an Avery Dennison accelerator program that develops commercial pilots with start-ups to solve clear business problems. 

In a continuation of the full loop theme, Moree sells its products through The Modern Milkman. .

Is fresh produce inventory management past its expiry date?

With a reported 12 million tonnes of plastic pouring into our oceans each year, Moree offers food brands flexible, reusable packaging for dry food. A big part of the UK-based company’s success is its platform that tracks packaging, rewards customers for their returns, and provides valuable data on plastic, carbon and cost savings. 

Through its work with Avery Dennison, Moree is helping brands take a big step towards zero waste, while encouraging more sustainable lifestyles.

“When Moree joined AD Stretch, we ran a pilot to test a reusable, flexible film for bread and other baked goods,” says George. “During the pilot, we developed a fully circular label that could resist Moree’s washing cycle and tested RFID tags in the package to improve supply chain traceability.”

Co-founder of Moree, Dejan Mitrovic, adds: Having the support of a big company like Avery Dennison has been imperative to our ongoing innovation and success. It proves that a mutual unwavering passion for technology and sustainability can lead to incredible things, benefiting broader society and future generations.”

In an era of customer demands centered on being digital and sustainable, going full circle has never been more critical. The trick is to move like a boomerang, not a milk float or rising loaf.

Click here to find out more about connecting the physical and digital worlds within your business.

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