Food Waste

2020 Grocery Trends: Zero Waste

2020 Grocery Trends: Zero Waste 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

There has never been more talk about food waste, and that trend will only continue to evolve and expand in 2020.

Sustainability is a key issue for shoppers (56% of grocery consumers surveyed by Oracle said a key influence on their brand loyalty is knowing that retailers are acting sustainably) – and it’s high time that grocery stores stepped up to the plate and acknowledged their responsibility.

Many have. In fact, zero waste grocery stores are becoming more prevalent in the United States, particularly in larger cities that can support a higher income clientele.


Where did the zero waste trend start?

Zero waste grocery stores started getting a lot of buzz in late 2018 through 2019, so the trend is still relatively recent. Europe jumped on the idea first, and the concept has been successful across the pond, but in the United States, these stores “face an uncertain future”. 

It’s taken some time between the rise of our society’s collective conscious around sustainability and developing the technology and raising the capital needed to execute on such a lofty idea. 

Meanwhile, grocery store waste is estimated to cost $18.2 billion a year, a problem large enough to warrant that lofty idea I just mentioned. Though food waste has become a buzzword in the industry, in this case, it’s reality.

This grocery store trend isn’t just one that’s “nice to have” or tech-y for tech’s sake. It’s the kind of trend that can inspire industry-wide change while leaving a positive impact on the environment and our world as a whole.


Who is doing zero waste grocery stores well?

So, who’s accomplishing those lofty goals? Who’s doing a great job of holding up their zero waste ideals?

Large retailers have not taken this trend up yet, but smaller, boutique grocery stores in metropolitan areas with eco-conscious consumers have been able to make large strides toward zero waste. 

Stores like Precycle in Brooklyn, Hello! Bulk Markets in Salt Lake City, and Jar in Stuart, Florida are leading the way in zero waste. They are showing larger retailers that it’s possible to sell produce (and even some personal care products) package-free, that doing so actually bodes well for your brand in a customer’s eyes. Our prediction: it will be at least three more years before we find out if those larger grocers were listening.


What are the pros and cons of zero waste grocery stores?

The positive aspects of a zero waste grocery store are immediately obvious, as they’re basically called out in the description. Zero waste = way less food waste contributed to the environment. Way less food wasted that could have been consumed by those who need it. Way less plastic. Way less problems.

That goodwill that you accumulate as a zero waste grocery store also translates into a marketing differentiator. Customers who care about the environment and having a lower impact on the world around them will seek out your store, even if it’s a bit out of their way.

Why isn’t every grocery store a zero waste operation? To put it lightly, it’s expensive. The cost of maintaining a fresh inventory with zero waste is high, and it’s difficult to implement this trend on a larger scale. Stores with tens of thousands of SKUs may think that it’s not worth their time to source new, packaging-free alternatives to the products they already carry on their shelves. Zero waste vendors are not easily sourced or typically economically priced, so going zero waste may be a business decision that not every grocer can take on right now.

Zero waste grocery stores are a trend with the potential to explode over the next few years among community stores, boutique shops, and one-store operations. As sustainability concerns continue to rise with customers, it makes sense to get ahead of the trend – but first, be sure to consult your P&L.


Earth Day 2019: 5 Tips to Diminish Food Waste

Earth Day 2019: 5 Tips to Diminish Food Waste 720 480 Emma Leuman

On Earth Day 2019, the challenges that our environment is facing are more prominent than ever. The modern news cycle keeps us aware of every imminent threat to the health of our planet, and it can be overwhelming to consider the far-reaching consequences of every action we take.

As a member of the grocery industry, we’ve chosen to use this day to focus on a key issue that our community is contributing to, and has the power to change: food waste.

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Food Waste-Free Experience Creates Customer Loyalty

How a Food Waste-Free Experience Creates Customer Loyalty

How a Food Waste-Free Experience Creates Customer Loyalty 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

One of the most-discussed trends in retail is the collective shift toward seeking customer loyalty over a one-time sale. There’s good reason for the conversation: according to a study by Edelman, loyal customers will spend up to 67% more with your brand than new customers. It’s not about bringing new faces into your store in 2019 – it’s about convincing them to keep coming back.

Grocers are aware of the impact of customer loyalty, and are turning to unique business strategies in order to develop that connection. One such strategy is becoming food waste-free.

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What is Stop Waste Together?

What is Stop Waste Together? 720 480 Emma Leuman

The grocery industry has faced its fair share of challenges over the past few decades. Digitization has caused many shoppers to adjust their purchasing habits in favor of e-commerce solutions, technology has raised the stakes on in-store personalization, and a renewed focus on sustainability has raised standards for grocers across the country.

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Effects of Expiration Dates on Purchasing Decisions

Effects of Expiration Dates on Purchasing Decisions 728 374 Andrew Hoeft

Recent research found 51% of shoppers expect a remaining shelf life of eight (8) or more days if paying full price for perishable food products, while 73% said they expected at least 15 days on non-perishable (center store grocery, OTC/Vitamin) products. The study done by UW-Whitewater in partnership with Date Check Pro provides grocers with a rare insight into how expiration dates and shelf life impact a shopper’s willingness to pay. read more

Save Some Dough – Reducing Dairy Dough Shrink

Save Some Dough – Reducing Dairy Dough Shrink 2430 2949 Cody Sheehy

Have you ever walked into your dairy cooler and found a bunch of expired doughs among everything that had been pulled for the day?  This section of the store can generate shrink for a few different reasons, and we are going to walk through some of the tips and tricks of what to watch for and how to combat higher loss in this area. read more


The Growing Problem of Organic Food Expiration: What AP/LP Professionals Need to Know

The Growing Problem of Organic Food Expiration: What AP/LP Professionals Need to Know 1280 853 Andrew Hoeft

Organic foods, particularly produce, have risen in popularity among grocery shoppers throughout the past few years. According to the latest numbers from the Organic Trade Association, organic sales in the United States in 2016 reached about $47 billion, reflecting new sales of almost $3.7 billion—a clear surge as the food market overall remained stagnant.

While just how much eco-friendly and healthy organic food is over conventional produce is another question, the net effect on grocers remains the same: shoppers are buying more organic produce, which presents new challenges for asset protection and loss prevention (AP/LP).

Before we get into what AP/LP professionals need to do to accommodate the rise in organic food, it’s important to step back and get a clear understanding of a key question underlying the issue:

Does organic produce have a shorter shelf life than conventional produce?

The short answer: It depends on the type of food.

Most people’s intuitions tell them that since organic food hasn’t been treated with the chemicals used on conventional produce to protect it from bacteria build-up, weather elements, pests, and other threats to longevity, it has shorter overall shelf life.

Researchers that have tested certain types of food for comparative shelf life have found that many organic foods do indeed have higher levels of bacteria that cause food to spoil (but not cause illness). Additionally, other research has found that because fruits and vegetable are not treated with waxes or preservative to the same degree that conventional produce is, they may indeed spoil faster.

Beyond the use of chemicals to boost resilience, some have theorized that poorly developed distribution systems for organic produce may be a factor as well––an idea supported by the fact that some grocers see their organic produce lasting even longer than conventional products.

Given these challenges, we’ve highlighted three ways AP/LP professionals can protect organic inventory:

Advocate internally for a more information-rich shopping experience to spur organic sales

While AP/LP professionals don’t directly touch the merchandising aspect of store displays, they can be vocal internal advocates for efforts that have been shown to boost department-specific sales, lessening the need to protect against shelf life challenges in the first place.

Retail experts note that although supermarket operators tend to see themselves as merchandisers, shoppers are increasingly relying on them as advocates and educators of healthy choices.

Larger supermarkets like Whole Foods Market are increasingly offering primers about organic standards on their website, noting that stores source organic produce whenever possible because the company believes it’s better for the environment. Initiatives like this can go a long way in decreasing the burden on AP/LP efforts by directing health-conscious shoppers toward products they might otherwise miss.

Prioritize shelf life monitoring around the highest contributors to produce shrink

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Agricultural Science conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nielsen Perishables Group Inc., and other research organizations identified the specific types of fruits and vegetables that contributed the most to overall shrink throughout 2011 and 2012. Since the researchers were interested in the factors that contribute to produce shrink besides theft, stolen products were not accounted for in the results.

While many AP/LP teams may already have a tight handle on which products are their highest contributors of shrink in the produce department, this list may serve as a helpful resource both for teams in need of a “first step” toward allocating time and resources toward expiration date management as well as those who may be unknowingly missing important items requiring close shelf life monitoring.


Fruit Average Shrink in 2011-2012 (%) Uneaten Whole Fruit (Millions lbs./year)
Papayas 43.1 124
Pineapple 32.2 617
Apricots 30.0 9
Watermelon 25.4 1,063
Honeydew 22.5 100
Mangoes 21.1 157
Apples 19.2 932
Avocados 19.0 300
Grapefruit 18.2 136
Cantaloupe 15.6 400


The graph below offers an eye-opening comparison of how shrink percentages map onto the percent of uneaten whole fresh fruit.uneaten and shrink fruit graph


Vegetable Average Shrink (%) Uneaten Whole Vegetables (Million lbs./year)
Turnip greens 62.9 71
Mustard greens 61.1 76
Escarole/endive 47.4 40
Collard greens 43.8 117
Okra 40.2 49
Squash 26.6 28
Radishes 22.7 29
Snap beans 21.9 127
Artichokes 20.8 90
Eggplant 20.6 51


Again, the graph below illustrates how the top vegetables in terms of shrink are different than those in terms of total amounts that go uneaten in U.S. supermarkets.uneaten and shrink vegetables graph

Take steps to protect organic produce from common causes of damage

While many types organic produce may be at a natural disadvantage when it comes to shelf life, AP/LP professionals should ensure they’re not further accelerating the process by allowing products to get damaged.

A few common causes of produce damage include:

  • Exposure to sunlight
    “Optimised storage conditions for fresh produce in particular in the retail environment will increase the amount sold to consumers, increasing turnover and reducing waste at the same time.”
  • Damage from equipment or tech malfunctions
    Check cold or cool storage equipment to ensure all components are functioning as they should be according to the needs of organic products.
  • Damage from excessive or insufficient temperatures
    Beyond checking for problems or faulty equipment, make sure cold or cool storage equipment is keep temperamental organic products at precise temperature levels.
  • Damage due to poor or excessive handling
    Organic products can be especially susceptible to bruising and other damage that may not have the same effect on conventional produce. Make sure those responsible for handling organic products are extra cautious with these products. In necessary, separate processes and/or handling equipment may need to be used to prevent damage.

Learn other ways you can use technology to enhance your loss prevention/asset protection programs in our free eBook.

How Grocers Can Reduce Throwaways and Over-Ordering This Holiday Season

How Grocers Can Reduce Throwaways and Over-Ordering This Holiday Season 1280 854 Andrew Hoeft

While much has been said about asset protection and loss prevention issues affecting the broader retail industry during the holidays, grocers and supermarkets face a number of unique problems that receive far less attention.

One such challenge is an increase in food waste. It’s difficult to predict how much demand will increase during the holidays. This can lead to over-ordering and wasteful throwaways.

We’ve assembled a short list of solutions and products that can help grocers combat over-ordering and throwaways.

Use discount displays

Using discount shelves — contrary to a popular opinion among grocers — have been shown to increase sales and customer satisfaction.

A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) examining why nearly half of America’s food supply is ending up in landfills cited discount shelves as a viable solution to preventing throw-aways as a result of over-orders.

“Retailers who have tried offering near-expiration items at a discounted price report that it does not reduce sales but rather raises customer satisfaction.” — Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

According to the report, retailers using discount shelves to sell near-expiration items at a discounted price did not report lost sales as one would expect. In fact, discount shelves boosted consumer satisfaction––a finding that aligns with the broader rise of discount grocery throughout the country. According to Forbes, the number of discount grocery stores increased 17.6 percent from 2011 to 2016. The same report also shed light into consumer behavior around discounts as well, finding that 68 percent of Americans say they enjoy taking the time to find bargains.

  • Experiment with discount shelves to as a simple solution to over-ordering that appeals to deal hunters and regular shoppers alike.
  • Use any existing planograms and in-store analytics tools to place discount shelves in optimal areas.

Donate more food

Food donation has become a large part of the modern retail and grocery world and offers supermarkets an opportunity to get involved with local charitable organizations during the busy holiday season. But despite the opportunity, 10 percent of the 133 billion pounds of wasted food produced each year is lost at grocery stores, restaurants, and other vendors.

The reluctance of many supermarket owners to get their stores involved often stems from liability fears. However, a number of laws actually protect companies from risk while offering tax write offs and legal paths through which deductions can be taken. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act passed in 1996 is one such law protecting good faith food donors from civil and criminal liability.

Get all the details in our Food Donation Guide. We’ve pulled out the important points from the three major laws protecting and promoting grocery food donation and packed them into a clear and simple guide.

Logistical headaches can also dissuade supermarkets from donating food. Many stores don’t have the space to store leftover food while waiting for pickup. Others don’t know who or where they should donate food in the first place.


Feeding America offers a solution to these problems through its MealConnect program. It acts as a middleman between food vendors like grocery stores, produce markets, restaurants, and hotels and food providers like food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters.

Through programs like MealConnect, supermarkets can participate in holiday food donation programs without saddling themselves with an expensive and complex logistics plan.

Learn more about Feeding America’s MealConnect program →

Eliminate overfilled displays and planogram divergence

As it turns out, the “pile em’ high, watch em’ fly” philosophy to product displays doesn’t seem to ring true as revealed in a study conducted by a 550-store grocery chain. Following a thorough analysis of freshness, shrink, and customer purchases in all of its perishables departments in 2008, Stop and Shop/Giant Landover saved an estimated $100 million a year by making a few key changes to protect its assets and prevent losses.

The company found that overfilled displays were directly causing products to spoil on the shelf, resulting in both financial waste and displeasure among customers while forcing staff to manually sort out damaged items. After simplifying their displays, customers didn’t notice fewer choices and less-full displays. In fact, customer satisfaction rose as produce was on average three days fresher than before.

This is just one example of display simplicity that can extend throughout the store. In the lead-up to seasonal products around the holidays, this is the perfect time to declutter displays and put the focus on high-interest products in preparation for the influx of shoppers.

Diverging from an established planogram can be a less-obvious issue feeding into a broader loss prevention problem. It’s not uncommon for supermarkets to quietly creep away from their plan without even realizing it. However, it’s important to remember that an effective planogram isn’t just a pretty blueprint for your store––it’s optimized to maximize sales in very subtle ways. Even a slight divergence can have a profound impact on your bottom line.

There are lower-tech and higher-tech methods of measuring planogram compliance. The former may be as simple as a store manager or employee walking around with a clipboard and verifying compliance. The latter entails taking pictures with a smartphone and comparing the current state of the store to the planograms themselves.

While both of these methods would suit small to mid-sized supermarket, larger grocers (whose financial pains are amplified with each small error) should consider investing in a system designed specifically to closely monitor planogram compliance. We’ve highlighted a few of these systems below.

RELEX Micro Space Planning and Planogram Optimization Solution

“RELEX’s micro space planning software enables supermarkets to create planograms for any fixture and continuously assess their performance while editing. Automated planogram updates and automatic creation of optimized planograms at all levels, including store-specific plans, maximize the benefits of micro space planning.”

Learn more about RELEX

Planorama Planocheck and PlanoManager

“Planorama’s Planocheck extracts real-time actionable unbiased business intelligence from a single shelf photo. Make your sales reps’ life easier with an instant report to act upon while they are still in the store. Centrally access up-to-the minute consolidated data for all your SKUs, stores, chains and channels to make better and faster decisions. And ensure shoppers’ in-store experience with your products is the one you have designed for them.”

Learn more about Planorama


“Cognitive Operational Systems, Inc. (COSY) is a spinout of UPenn’s GRASP Laboratory. The company focuses on leveraging University research for enabling industry solutions in computer vision, perception, and artificial intelligence. COSY became one of the early occupants of Pennovation Works in the summer of 2015.

COSY technology enables robots to navigate retail store floors, managing inventory, ensuring planogram and promotional compliance. COSY will also map stores including layout and architecture.”

Learn more about COSY

7 of the Best Foods to Donate to Food Banks

7 of the Best Foods to Donate to Food Banks 876 584 Andrew Hoeft
Food donation is one of the most generous and helpful things you can do for people who are in need. Food donation facilities help families in need who do not have the adequate income needed to support themselves. Quality assurance when is a key component for providing each family with nutritious meals options.

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A Quick Guide for Donating Food

A Quick Guide for Donating Food 550 380 Andrew Hoeft
Did you know that we waste over 70 billion pounds of food in America every year? That’s a LOT of food. Food which could otherwise be consumed and instead is being sent straight to landfills. Supermarkets buy so much food to allow for variety among consumers that a large portion of it goes completely to waste.

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