RFID is playing a big role in the apparel supply chain. But there are several ways to extend the benefits of RFID to the food industry as well. In particular, RFID can increase efficiency within the supply chain and can help ensure the quality of perishable goods. Millions of people around the world don’t have access to a proper food supply, but in certain trading zones the market for luxury foodstuffs is so strong that it attracts counterfeiters and black market activities.
A typical supermarket stocks an average of 40,000 Stock Keeping Units (SKUs). The large number of SKUs makes inventory control a major challenge, and inaccurate counts can lead to dissatisfied customers. Many food shoppers go to a large market only once or twice a week, and expect to find what they want. If a given product is out of stock, the disappointment can be significant enough to erode loyalty, and drive shoppers elsewhere. RFID tags can help supermarkets and other retail locations manage inventories more precisely, for more responsive logistics and greater efficiency. Shelves are always fully stocked and shoppers always find what they want, when they want it.
The “fresh” category is an especially important segment of the food industry, since it offers the highest growth rates. But it also presents some of the biggest challenges in terms of logistics and shrinkage. Fresh food needs to be handled properly and doesn’t last long, even under the best circumstances. Shrinkage rates can be significant, leading to as much as 10% or more in some categories. Spoiled food has expenses associated with it, not just in lost sales, but also because it costs money to dispose of unsaleable items. RFID tags can be used to track food items more closely while they’re in the supply chain as well as in the retail store, to ensure proper handling, and can also be equipped with sensors that monitor environmental conditions to avoid spoilage.