How to Reduce Food Waste in Retail with Remote Temperature Monitoring
33-40% of the world’s food is lost or wasted annually at some point along the production spectrum: from farm to distribution, during the retail process, or by the consumer.
How Is Food Loss Different From Food Waste?
- Food loss occurs at harvest or before the food reaches the consumer, typically due to production, storage, processing, and distribution issues (upstream).
- Food waste refers to food that is discarded at the retail or consumption phase, even if it is still considered fit for-consumption (downstream).
According to the United Nations, approximately 13% of the total amount of food produced is lost upstream, during the stages between harvest and retail, and an estimated 17% of the same amount is wasted downstream, collectively within households, the food service industry, and retail sectors.
One of the main reasons for food waste is spoilage, which can occur as a result of temperature variations caused by malfunctioning equipment, undetected power outages, and human error or negligence.
But how can food retail businesses, e.g., grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores, effectively prevent unbudgeted expenses from food spoilage?
Temperature Monitoring Systems for Cold Storage
Most fresh food is kept below 4°C (40°F), where microbial growth is slow. In contrast, bacteria and pathogens grow quickly in the "danger zone," between 4.4-60°C (40-140°F). Food quality can rapidly deteriorate due to the growth of harmful microorganisms if the temperature is not adequately monitored and adjusted. Not only does this pose a food safety risk, but it can also cause the loss of essential nutrients and change the taste, texture, and appearance of perishable goods.
Even when the food is still safe to consume, if temperature fluctuations have impacted the taste or appearance, the items might get thrown away anyway because customers often don’t want to buy products that are in less than perfect condition.
To monitor the conditions of cold storage, employees often manually record the temperature by checking thermometers placed inside each cooling unit. However, if the monitoring devices are inaccurate or lack calibration, the process is not sufficient. An inaccurate device will lead to incorrect temperature readings, potentially allowing the growth of bacteria and harmful pathogens just as much as an equipment malfunction would.
3 Causes of Temperature Fluctuations that Lead to Food Spoilage
Temperature fluctuations that result in food spoilage can result from a variety of factors. Here are some of the most frequent:
- Equipment malfunction or failure disrupts the proper functioning of refrigeration units, causing temperature fluctuations that accelerate food spoilage and lead to waste.
- Power outages cause refrigeration monitoring systems to stop working, leading to uncontrolled temperatures. If outages occur at night or when monitoring systems rely on electricity, temperature variations may go unnoticed until power is restored.
- Human errors are attributed to fatigue, inadequate training, and a lack of attention to detail, which can lead to incorrectly setting, adjusting, or recording temperature controls in refrigeration units.
How Remote Temperature Monitoring Systems Reduce Food Waste
Manual temperature checks are labor-intensive and prone to error and negligence. To protect themselves from inaccuracy and bring efficiency to their processes, food retailers should consider remote temperature monitoring systems to prevent food waste, boost operational efficiency, and create a robust system for compliance logging.
Wireless temperature sensors are a key component of these systems. In combination with intelligent, open, and scalable platforms, they enable the continuous and remote temperature monitoring of cooling equipment. When used in the food retail industry, they:
- Reduce human error from manual checks by automating the temperature monitoring of cooling equipment.
- Send timely alerts if equipment malfunctions or if the temperature changes, enabling quick corrective action.
- Facilitate food safety compliance documentation by providing a complete data record for review and inspection.
Food retailers can thus improve food quality control while boosting operational visibility and efficiency.
The Disruptive Technologies Cold Storage Monitoring Solution
By remotely monitoring temperature data from store locations, the Disruptive Technologies solution enables food retailers to reduce food waste due to spoilage and manage compliance logging effectively. It eliminates the need for manual temperature monitoring, saving time and labor requirements as well as detecting early warning signs of equipment failure.
How It Works
The three main components of the Disruptive Technologies solution for monitoring the conditions of cold storage are the Wireless Temperature Sensor with data backfill, the Cloud Connector, and Studio.
Wireless Temperature Sensor with Data Backfill
The sensor periodically measures the temperature in refrigerators and freezers. The data backfill capability allows it to store up to 100,000 data points if the sensor goes offline due to a lost connection, ensuring food retailers always have access to a complete record of data that helps meet food safety compliance requirements.
The Cloud Connector acts as a channel of communication between the wireless sensor and the DT cloud infrastructure by securely relaying data via cellular or Ethernet.
Studio is a web-based application that allows food retailers to view and remotely monitor temperature data from refrigerators and freezers in different stores and locations.
At the Heart of the Solution: the Wireless Temperature Sensor
Earlier this year, Disruptive Technologies released the new Wireless Temperature Sensor. Changing the game for monitoring cold storage conditions in the food retail market, the new generation of temperature sensors offers greater reliability, flexibility, and a longer lifespan than the market has seen before.
Here are the top 3 reasons why the Wireless Temperature Sensor makes Disruptive Technologies' solution truly exceptional:
Low Cost of Ownership
With 15-year battery life at temperatures from -40°C to 85°C (-40° to 185°F), the new generation of temperature sensors enables food retailers to reduce their maintenance costs and make a quick return on investment (ROI).
Easy to Install and Scale
Sensors are peel-and-stick and ready to go straight out of the box. The gateway is plug-and-play and supports up to thousands of sensors, making it easy to get going quickly and scale when necessary.
Discreet and Robust
The sensors' discreet size ensures they don't compromise the aesthetic or merchandising appeal of the storage units. Food retailers remain free to tailor their merchandising strategies for optimal revenue, while gaining access to continuous and accurate data insights.