The Shoprite Group has introduced artificial intelligence and machine learning to its stores to help address food waste and other logistical problems.
The supermarket group, which is South Africa’s largest private sector employer, said a key function of the technology is learning to predict sales in its stores and avoiding unnecessary waste.
“Restocking orders are placed automatically, to ensure that stocks are always available to customers while reducing food waste,” said Sanjeev Raghubir, Shoprite Group Sustainability Manager.
Raghubir added that the AI model considers various parameters, including which products to store and when.
“For example, a store near the finish line of an annual sporting event will automatically be stocked with additional ready meals for that single day of the year,” he said.
He added that major efforts are aimed at preventing food waste and losses before they occur. The group does this by reviewing its ordering, replenishment and sorting processes, using data analytics to identify critical food waste points.
“For example, by optimizing the product range in its delis, the group has reduced food waste in that department by 11%,” he said.
The Shoprite retail group has an entire business unit dedicated to the use of innovative technologies, known as ShopriteX. This unit has been partly responsible for some of the group’s biggest recent hits, including the popular Sixty60 delivery program.
In late 2021, he indicated he was experimenting with an automated, cashless concept store “no queues, no cashiers, no waiting”.
“We are serious about being Africa’s most customer-centric retailer and the launch of ShopriteX represents our investment in future-proof precision retail that is increasingly digital and data-driven,” said Pieter Engelbrecht. Shoprite Group, managing director of Pieter Engelbrecht Shoprite Group at the time
“The next era of growth for us is in precision retail. ShopriteX will use our rich customer data to power a “smarter Shoprite” and ultimately combine the best of digital with our operational strength across the continent. “