Artificial intelligence (AI) wears an endless number of hats across the technology industry.

Many food tech companies have harnessed AI’s capabilities to create more ease and efficiency for suppliers, retailers and every step of the supply chain.

Award-winning IoT Pixels

San Diego-based technology company Wiliot has generated a lot of buzz for its Internet of Things (IoT) Visibility Platform since its introduction at Groceryshop in Las Vegas in September.

In October, Wiliot made TIME’s list of ‘Best Inventions of 2023,’ and in November, it was included in Fast Company’s 2023 list of ‘Next Big Things in Tech.’

“The ambient IoT represents an evolution of the traditional Internet of Things that brings connectivity and product intelligence from large, expensive things to almost everything,” said Steve Statler, Wiliot’s CMO. “By embedding item-level intelligence into trillions of things, and connecting these products through generative AI platforms, businesses are equipped with the real-time data they need to solve many of their most pressing challenges. Wiliot’s benefits are broad and deep: we create more efficient, response supply chains, reduce their carbon emissions, enhance food and medicine safety, and so much more.”

According to Wiliot, its IoT Pixels only cost pennies to make and are versatile stamp-sized, self-powered computing devices that can connect anything to the internet through their attachment.

The company emphasized that the IoT Pixels are not just for large objects but can also provide data on the contents of shipping crates, such as individual packages of produce or other fresh perimeter products. This can help companies with traceability for FSMA 204 compliance, as well as sustainability goals.

“Inefficiencies and waste across supply chains have a significant impact on the planet,” said Antony Yousefian, Wiliot’s vice president of climate and circularity. “Wiliot addresses these inefficiencies by creating an ambient IoT that brings intelligence and internet connectivity to every single ‘thing’ in the global supply chain, enabling products to transmit item-level information about their location, temperature and carbon footprint.”

The IoT Pixels can also sense humidity and share that data with the Wiliot Cloud.

“Based on this new humidity data, companies can now track, in real-time, the relative impact of environmental conditions on moisture-sensitive products – to improve their freshness, quality, safety, and integrity,” said Thaddeus Segura, Wiliot’s vice president of data products and algorithms. “Food retailers can apply freshness insights to their operations to ensure the freshest, ripest products are sold first, while healthcare companies can monitor the safe handling and storage of medicines and health commodities. The Wiliot Visibility Platform gives businesses an entirely new level of insight into their supply chains.”

Retail management software

Several new retailers implemented Tampa, Fla.-based Upshop’s AI food retail management software throughout 2023.

In the summer, De Pere, Wis.-based family- and employee-owned grocer Festival Foods partnered with Upshop to utilize its Fresh SaaS software, which is designed to help retailers simplify and streamline inventory management and overall workflow across the fresh perimeter.

“We chose Upshop as our partner because they truly understand our business, the intricacies of fresh foods and the processes required for success,” said Ken Wicker, Festival Foods’ senior vice president of fresh foods. “With Upshop, we have the confidence that our operations will be optimized and ready to meet the demands of our customers. Festival Foods has invested to build a competitive edge in fresh, and Upshop’s capabilities enable us to scale those advantages.”

Also in the summer, Quincy, Ill.-based retail chain Niemann Foods began using a new replenishment and inventory system from Upshop called Magic in 43 stores across Illinois, Missouri and Indiana.

The AI software analyzes data in real time to forecast consumer demand, calculate the current inventory levels and order the optimal amount of product, according to Upshop.

The company designed it specifically for grocery stores so that the data analysis takes into account seasonal trends and store promotions.

“Our approach is a game-changer for grocery retailers who want to maximize the potential of their stores,” said Shamus Hines, CEO of Upshop. “Shoppers expect more personalization than ever, no matter where they shop. Grocers are investing to ensure the right product is available at the right time and location to ensure they do not miss a sale, online and in-store. We are proud to work with Niemann’s to optimize inventory and realize store success.”

In September, Byron Center, Mich.-based retailer SpartanNash expanded its usage of Uphop’s Magic application to optimize localized inventory, bolster efficient merchandising strategies, and improve sustainability, according to the company.

“At SpartanNash, we’re prioritizing technology to enhance our associate and store guest experience,” said Tom Swanson, SpartanNash executive VP, corporate retail. “By leveraging advanced analytics to predict product demand, our associates can spend less time checking inventory and more time face-to-face helping serve our shoppers.”

Springdale, Ark.-based Harps Food Stores also plans to begin using Upshop’s Magic platform early this year.

According to Upshop, other leading retailers using the Magic software are Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans, West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s, Ontario-based Cardenas, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Lowes Foods, Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets, Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y, and Stellarton, Novia Scotia-based Sobey’s.

Minimizing shrink

In September, Durham, N.C.-based Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions launched the ELERA Security Suite, a new technology designed to minimize shrink.

Citing data from the National Retail Federation, Toshiba said retail shrink accounted for $94.5 billion in losses in 2021 in the United States and continues to be a critical challenge for retailers.

“In a world where every second and every cent counts, ELERA Security Suite is not just a tool but a strategy—turning data into decisions and losses into profits,” said Yevgeni Tsirulnik, senior vice president of innovation and incubation at Toshiba. “As global leaders in retail solutions, our Toshiba team and partners came together to envision and develop the AI-powered ELERA Security Suite to enhance their loss prevention measures that have a direct and positive impact on retailer profits while also improving the shopper experience.”

According to Toshiba, the ELERA Security Suite allows retailers to do the following:

  • Monitor consumer behavior in real-time – without servers or processing lag – via TCx EDGEcam+ and multiple sensors, which adds enhanced security throughout the checkout area.
  • Respond to incidents as they occur for more impactful and timely resolutions with leading AI-powered computer vision.
  • Notify shoppers of potential errors through proactive alerts and allowing them to correct the issue themselves – minimizing employee intervention and improving the checkout experience.
  • Differentiate customers’ items vs. store items they’re purchasing, improving recognition accuracy, and reducing incorrect warnings.

This article is an excerpt from the January 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire AI feature and more in the digital edition here.