SanLucar avoids food waste by using the Barcotec intelligent refrigerator
SanLucar, a leading international producer of fresh fruit and vegetables, smoothies and juices, is developing an intelligent refrigerator together with Austrian digitization expert Barcotec. This ensures that convenience products can be produced fresh, quickly and in market-suitable quantities and offered to customers for sale. Thanks to optimized stocking, every refrigerator becomes a self-sufficient sales stand with the least possible spoilage.
Healthy products easily available
The market share of convenience products (i.e. ready-to-eat products such as sliced fruit, frozen food, baking mixes, etc.) has been growing increasingly in recent years. Two types are particularly popular in Austria: Chilled Food (pre-processed food that is ready to eat by heating it briefly) and Fresh-Cut Products (pre-cut fruit and vegetables), which follow the trend towards more health, wellness and organic foods. (Source: oesterreich-isst-informiert.at). Just in Austria 81,94 Euro are spent annually per person on convenience products. (Source: statista.com)
However, the processing and production of “fresh-cut food” brings with it a number of challenges, because the goods must be handled with care until they meet the customer at the point of sale. Not only does fruit, for example, lose its natural protection after cutting, it also has to be portioned, cooled, stored and packaged. The life of a convenience product is therefore limited.
Avoiding food waste
It was exactly this challenge that the managing director of SanLucar Austria, Alexander Thaller, devoted his time to in spring 2019: “Our vision is to provide all people with the most natural, freshest and tastiest fruits and vegetables. And in such a way that we can be proud of it”, he says. “The fact that the fruit is offered pre-processed does not change this requirement. But of course, this results in a shorter shelf life. So we wanted to have real-time information about the condition of our goods in the grocery store, so that we avoid food waste and have as many items on the shelf as customers want to buy at that time.” With this in mind, the company turned its attention to possible solution providers and found a reliable partner in the Austrian company Barcotec, which had already proved a dependable partner in the area of mobile data capture.
Fruit digitization begins
Together with Barcotec, the parameters that would ensure a self-sufficient refrigerator were defined: The refrigerator was to report independently, without human interaction, when goods were inserted and removed, but at the same time continuously report the expiration dates of the goods to the SanLucar headquarters. Each cup of fruit is read by special readers based on microchip technology. After an extensive pilot phase and months of project work, the first refrigerators were rolled out in late autumn 2019. Today, more than 100 self-sufficient refrigerators are in use in food retail stores, reporting their stocking levels and best-before-dates accurately and immediately.
More freshness — less spoilage
Real-time data at the push of a button via radio chip now allows for precise production planning, since out-of-shelf information and the exchange of goods is triggered. SanLucar's Thaller commented: “Every refrigerator acts like an autonomous sales stand. For example, the refrigerator next to the outdoor swimming pool can be stocked with more melons in the summer when a heat wave is announced, while production is reduced when bad weather is forecast”. The greatest effect can be seen in the greatly reduced spoilage. “One of our top priorities is to produce as little food waste as possible.”
Other positive additional effects were the reduced personnel requirements on the part of the food retailer, as the employees no longer have to check the expiration date. For SanLucar, it is much more transparent now which varieties run particularly well on which days and when this merchandise is requested at what time (the receipt information is not sufficient for this type of information). Also, location qualifications are easily achieved, as it is now clear which products work well in which regions, and can therefore be filled with this product group more often.
Technology with a twist
At Barcotec, Regional Sales Manager Alexander Humer is responsible for implementing the system. He says: “The evaluation phase for selecting the right technology was particularly exciting. Here, all parameters had to be right so that the goods could always be identified promptly. Our team has been working with identification technology for 30 years, but an innovative project like this required the use of absolutely state-of-the-art technology”.