Skip to main content

A "Zest"-y solution to produce spoilage


For retailers, food waste is a normal part of doing business.

In fact, some grocers become concerned if they’re not throwing out products.

Why? According to Kevin Payne, director of marketing for Intelleflex, "that means to them that they’re selling products that should be tossed."

But that doesn’t have to be the case, he says. His company sells a wireless temperature monitoring service that promises to maximize produce products' shelf life. It uses RFID tags, which are placed inside pallets of produce.

Soon, the information collected by those tags will be available in real time. Intelleflex is set to launch a cloud-based data services platform called ZEST in the next few months.

Payne tells Canadian Grocer more about ZEST, and how it will help companies reduce losses and preserve their reputations.

How does ZEST work?

Let’s say you have a trailer load of 26 pallets coming into a distribution centre. You can open a web browser, pull up ZEST and go ‘Ok, alert me if a pallet has hit 6 degrees Fahrenheit. If that happens, send an alert to the warehouse manager that the pallet needs to be prioritized because it’s had some kind of temperature issue.’ The alert can also be sent in a text message to their cellphone or in an email.

Does it offer retailers anything else?

Yes. Let’s say you have a contract with a strawberry grower in Mexico. If your office is in Mississauga, you can open up ZEST and track how much the grower harvested on a particular day, the quality of the fruit and how it was pre-cooled.

That allows you to say ‘Ok, I have a shortage of berries from this grower this week, so I have to turn to other sources.’ Or, ‘A week from now I’m going to have a surplus of berries, so I should put it on sale in my flyer.’ It’s also useful if the government issues a recall notice.

How is this an improvement on the myriad of other solutions out there?

What’s commonly used in the industry is a USB-based data logger, which is put in the back of a trailer during shipment. This gives retailers a section of temperature data from a leg of the supply train, and only when they receive the goods. If you’re only monitoring part of the supply leg, and only at the trailer level, you’re accepting or rejecting products that you shouldn’t. This results in a lot of waste.

In an effort to drive out waste and improve profitability, we want to empower companies with knowledge about what’s happening in the supply chain in real time. They can then take corrective action to help improve operations, reduce waste, prioritize routing and identify potential recalls or safety issues.

Do retailers have any misconceptions about food spoilage?

One of the things we’ve found is that most retailers believe spoilage happens after they receive the products. That’s because they rely on USB data loggers or visual inspections. That’s a problem, because food looks good until right before it spoils.

How do consumers factor in?

Consumers demand product availability twelve months out of the year. That means retailers are forced to source produce farther and farther away. If the products aren’t managed properly, you can end up rejecting shipments. That can lead to out-of-stocks and dissatisfied customers. And retailers really can’t afford to take that chance. Our solution promises to make managing increasingly complex and increasingly global supply chains much easier.

This interview has been condensed for clarity and brevity.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds