We recently hosted a webinar with guest speaker Toopan Bagchi, former VP of Enterprise Strategy of Target and former Head of Strategic Planning of Walmart, along with our CEO & Co-founder, Elad Mardix. It was a far-ranging conversation about the state of the fresh produce industry, the challenges it’s facing, and opportunities for retailers and suppliers. The webinar also featured a detailed demo of the Clarifruit platform and everything it has to offer.
Here is a round-up of the highlights from our chat.
Current trends in the fresh produce industry
Toopan opened the discussion by pointing out why this conversation matters so much: for retailers, a strong fresh produce software is absolutely critical. The fresh category (and produce in particular) is the strongest influence on consumer choice when it comes to selecting grocers.
And consumers’ standards only get higher over time. Foodie culture and the mainstreaming of natural and organic products are sharpening the focus on sustainability and waste reduction. At the same time, demand for so-called “superfoods” like avocados and berries calls for innovative solutions when it comes to transportation and handling.
All of this is driving a need to update and improve processes throughout the value chain. But there are significant obstacles standing in the way: margin pressures, supply chain issues, talent shortages, and of course, unsustainable levels of waste.
These challenges call for innovative technological solutions.
Quality mismatch: the lose/lose scenario driving waste
Waste is a particularly acute problem for retailers, ranging from between 5% to low double-digit figures. As Elad put it, the primary driver of this waste is the tricky problem of quality mismatch.
Quality mismatch is the worst case scenario for sellers and buyers alike: sellers don’t get the price that they want per shipment, and buyers or retailers don’t get the level of quality they expect. To solve this problem, it’s important to understand what causes it, which is where the conversation went next.
Behind the quality mismatch conundrum: problems and solutions
Elad explored the three key drivers of quality mismatch, and outlined solutions to each one.
Challenge 1: Retailers and suppliers aren’t on the same page
All too often, retailers and upstream suppliers have different ideas when it comes to quality control and grading. Part of the reason for this is the way these standards are defined and communicated: multi-page PDFs shared via email, without a single source of truth for all parties involved.
Speaking one language: the Clarifruit language
Manual processes fraught with unstructured data are no longer fit for purpose. Clarifruit replaces them with a digitized process, based on what we call the “Clarifruit language”. Retailers or buyers can take their quality specs (or those of their customers), and digitize them on a Big Data platform. From there, they can be smoothly communicated across the supply chain, without the usual chaos of email threads and multi-channel communication.
This brings us neatly to the next problem driving quality mismatch.
Challenge 2: Inspections are still being done as if it’s 1970
The way inspectors work has yet to catch up with the times. They’re often human-driven, with all the subjectivity that comes along with that. This makes misalignment between sellers and buyers almost inevitable.
Updating inspections for the 21st century
Clarifruit frees inspectors from time-consuming manual processes: calipers, color charts, spreadsheets and all the human-dependent steps that inspections have relied upon until now. In place of all that, our platform enables inspectors to perform QC from a mobile app, enhanced by computer vision technology that replaces human subjectivity with objectivity and accuracy. Using this technology, the platform grades all relevant attributes, transmitted wirelessly into the app.
And inspections aren’t just better, they’re faster too, cutting testing time by between 50 – 75%.
Challenge 3: Where’s the data?
Perhaps most importantly, retailers lack the kind of real-time data they need to make effective decisions and tackle issues when they come up. Should I accept this request? When should I ship it? And where? Getting the right answer for each of these questions requires data – data that most retailers simply don’t have.
Unlocking the power of Big Data for real-time decision-making
Using Clarifruit, companies can access the data they need at any time, filtered based on attributes, defects, or other criteria. It’s all instantly available and exportable for richer, more informed decision-making. Detailed analytics and reporting finally make it possible to move beyond the stalemate of quality mismatch, reducing waste and optimizing value for customers.
Elad pointed out one of the crucial advantages Clarifruit’s end-to-end QC management gives to retailers: the ability to prioritize vendors based on performance. This is possible because any data that is collected through inspections is automatically structured for easy accessibility and transparency.
Clarifruit: advanced QC technology meets maximum ease of use
One of the consistent themes of our conversation was ease of use. In Toopan’s words, solutions that are easy to implement are going to be the ones that really take off in the industry. Because we understand the importance of speed and flexibility for the produce industry, we have worked hard to ensure that our solutions are easy to implement, configure and get up and running. Clarifruit equips businesses with advanced technology, easily managed from within a single dashboard, that can be implemented within 4-8 weeks.