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Cutting waste, food at Hoogvliet supermarkets automatically discounted using AI

Fresh foods are one of the trickiest grocery departments to optimize, with their brief window between delicious and dumpster. Supermarkets can sticker reductions on items close to their sell-by date, but that's both labor-intensive and imprecise. Wasteless, an Israeli startup, argues dynamic pricing is the solution. It's now being tested by Hoogvliet, a supermarket chain with 71 stores across the Netherlands.

Using Wasteless technology, prices for perishable foods are automatically reduced. Instead of a one-off markdown once a product nears its best-by date, discounts are applied incrementally. Electronic shelf labels list a product's price and its use-by date. A tub of yogurt with five days to go, for example, will be priced separately from the same item with a use-by date that's further off. Which means customers can see exactly how much they'll save by grabbing the tub that needs to be finished sooner.

Expiration dates aren't the only determinant — Wasteless uses other shopping data, too. If weather forecasts for a summer weekend are warm and sunny, the system will hold off on discounting BBQ meats. And if whipped cream is piling up, a steeper cut can spur consumers to buy. The pricing software is designed to learn from and adapt to customer buying habits. Hoogvliet is trialing the system at three of its stores and Wasteless estimates that the retailer could lower its waste-related costs by 30% and costs of markdowns by 50%.

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Optimizing markdowns through AI-driven solutions like Wasteless doesn't just improve a supermarket's bottom line and lower its environmental impact by cutting food waste. Consumers are actively seeking out lower prices as inflation has driven many to prioritize value when shopping. And not without a certain degree of satisfaction: in a 2022 survey of American adults, 53% said they're proud to be labeled a bargain-hunter.