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Panel describes an industry committed to waste

Group of experts at 2023 Southern Exposure event say the goals, and tools, are there to make an impact

Grocer retailers have thrown the burden of food waste over their shoulder. They are in it for the long haul. A few got together at the Southeast Produce Council’s 2023 Southern Exposure event and one thing was made clear: The tools and commitment are there, and the results are coming.

Ahold Delhaize USA, which carries grocers Food Lion, FreshDirect, Giant, The Giant Co., Hannaford, Peapod and Stop & Shop, helped create the 10x20x30 initiative. The initiative features 10 of the world’s biggest food retailers, which are engaging with 20 of their priority suppliers to cut the amount of food waste in half over the next seven years. Ahold Delhaize USA wants to reduce its waste by 32% at its stores by 2025, and come 2030 the goal is 50%. The grocer does not want any trace of waste in landfills come 2025. Ahold Delhaize USA is launching a HowGood label program to provide product sustainability ratings, and the retailer also wants to advance traceability.

Justin LaCroix, director of sustainable operations and brand lead for health and sustainability at Ahold Delhaize USA, served on the food waste and nutritional insecurity education panel session at the 2023 Southern Exposure event and said there is so much that can be done at the store level, whether it’s working on forecasting, the replenishment process or making sure the right products are on hand. LaCroix also emphasized the importance of communicating with food pantries.

Tools to combat retail food waste are emerging every day, and there are enough currently available to make some serious progress. Nathan Fenner, president and co-founder of Afresh, also had a voice on the panel. Afresh software uses artificial intelligence to do daily inventory at grocery stores. The goal is to minimize waste and maximize precision. Still, Fenner said a big issue lies in the supply chain. Making it more sufficient would reduce the amount of waste, which stands at about 30-40% because, according to Fenner, that is the amount of waste that retailers tolerate. He said a more efficient supply chain could make fresh food more profitable.

Fenner also claimed Afresh’s work with Albertson’s, SpartanNash, WinCo Foods, Bahas’, Cub, Fresh Thyme Market, Save Mart, and Heinen’s Fine Foods has resulted in 3% incremental sales growth, an average of 25% shrink reduction, and an 80% out-of-stock reduction.

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