Waste is a big problem in the fresh produce industry, one that remains unabated in many countries. According to a WWF report, 6-8% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are from food waste. Further, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) notes that fruits and vegetables contribute to 46% of food waste. Yet, a lot of fresh produce is still lost at retail every year.
A study attributes this huge waste to fresh produce spending half of its shelf life in transit. Facts and figures point to how important the storage, handling, and transportation of fresh produce is to reducing the amount of waste reported annually in the fresh produce industry.
Produce distributors can reduce this waste to a bare minimum by embracing newer tech and automated systems in their processes. One such automated system, Silo, is explicitly designed for the fresh produce industry and helps you maintain visibility over the entire supply chain and avoid overstocking. This solution also helps to create accurate inventory orders.
Here are some methods for reducing waste as a produce distributor.
Use the First In First Out (FIFO) strategy
FIFO is a well-known acronym for the First-In-First-Out strategy in the inventory management of fresh produce. This stock rotation system makes sure that product closest to its expiration date is taken out first. In other words, when fulfilling an order for a particular type of product, the earliest lots received of this product are shipped out first.
Implementing this strategy reduces waste by ensuring that no lot stays too long on the shelf. Typically, all packaged products have labels containing information about the dates they were brought in and their expiration date.
FIFO can be implemented using the positioning system. Older purchases may be placed in front of new supplies to show sale priority. The right-to-left method also suffices. Here, older supplies are placed on the right and newer supplies on the left.
The concept of dynamic pricing isn’t unique to the fresh produce industry. It is used in many industries to cut down on waste. The principle is quite simple and straightforward. Prices of products may be adjusted based on the quality or expected quality of the produce.
Discounts, as much as 50%, may be placed on fruits and vegetables that have stayed the longest in the storage facility.
Although you might be selling at a loss, it’s better than a complete waste of inventory.
Maintaining optimum temperature and moisture conditions
Keeping produce at optimum temperature and moisture conditions can extend its shelf life. By implementing smart temperature and moisture monitoring, you can tell whether or not each lot is subjected to the right temperature and moisture conditions.
Tracking temperature and moisture can help prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, which can spread from lot to lot, leading to several batches of fresh produce being thrown out of the wholesale facility.
Each type of product should also be well protected with the right packing. For instance, clamshells are often used for berries, mushrooms, and other products that can be easily damaged by crushing during stocking, while mesh bags are used for citrus, onions, and cabbage. Other commonly used packaging materials include pulp containers, corrugated fiberboard, and wire-bound crates.
Get supplies according to demand
A popular cause of produce waste is overstocking. Aside from monitoring inventory counts, knowing what produce is in demand at particular times helps minimize the chances of overstocking.
With informed knowledge about what fruits and vegetables are in demand per season, you can determine what products to bring into your facility and which ones to steer clear of.
A commonly used method of knowing what produce is in demand is market surveys. You may ask retailers what products are most sought after. This gives you an idea of what stocks to focus on. However, this method can be unreliable and inefficient.
A produce ERP can help you fetch accurate market insights, depending on seasonal factors. They also give insights into consumer behavior and buying habits by showing historical data presented in pictorial formats like graphs and charts.
Give out excess to charity
Do you have surplus fruits and vegetables? Do you have an excess of stock even after discount offerings? Consider giving the rest to hunger relief charities.
You can both help those in need and simultaneously lower your waste output.
Spoiled fruits and vegetables can be recycled and repurposed. Composting is a great way for decomposing produce to be transformed and salvaged. By compositing, nutrients can be returned to the soil, making it healthy and fertile once again for farming and cultivation.
By composting, there is also less need for fertilizers that can run chemicals into the soil. It’s a healthier alternative to fertilizers and helps improve the soil’s water retention. Sell your bad produce to a composting facility, vendor, or a well-established grower and they will put it to good use.
Other methods of recycling expired produce include:
- Processing it to separate the pulp from the juice
- Feeding livestock
- Giving it out to local food banks
Effects of produce waste
Aside from being guilt-inducing, there’s a lot to lose from produce waste. This ranges from monetary consequences to negative environmental impacts.
In terms of the environment, juice from spoiled fruits and vegetables can increase the volume of methane in the soil. The decomposition of this juice also produces methane gas, a major greenhouse gas.
You can also lose a lot of money from inventory waste. Frequent waste can lead to big revenue losses and, down the line, hinder a company’s ability to pay its workers’ wages. Productivity can also be affected.
Therefore, businesses are encouraged to find ways that will aid in minimizing their produce waste. Producing software programs (like Inecta’s food trading software) is a potential solution to this relevant issue as they can help maintain visibility over the entire supply chain, track lot information, and keep accurate inventory counts.