In April 2017, Matt Schwartz, Nathan Fenner, and Volodymyr Kuleshov co-founded Afresh Technologies. As it still is today, their goal was to use artificial intelligence to help solve climate change. And after much investigation, thousands of hours of shadowing fresh department employees, and in-depth conversations with top US food retailers, our small startup developed the world’s first and only Fresh Operating System. Ours is a technology that’s been needed for decades and the results so far have created shared value for businesses, our planet, and grocery shoppers, too. Here’s a taste of what we’ve learned after five years in fresh:
Way too much food goes to waste, especially in the United States
Food is one of the biggest culprits of waste worldwide. But as consumers, most of us just don’t understand the volume of waste we create…or the harm it does to our planet in the long run.
Senior Product Designer at Afresh, Kevin F., said he was shocked to learn about the volume of wasted food: “After joining Afresh, I learned that the US spends more than $240 billion yearly on food that goes to waste, and also that waste accounts for over 20% of all landfill volume in the country.” Read about the problem of food waste here.
A growing focus on sustainability is transforming businesses
Over the last five years, we’ve seen the impacts of climate change affect our entire planet. As a result, consumers are making their own health and the health of the planet a top priority and businesses are following suit! At least 68% of food retailers see social and environmental responsibility strategies as differentiators, so they're investing in fresh-first strategies that make sustainable operations a reality. Grocery retailers in particular are stepping up by introducing climate-conscious business practices, making commitments to zero waste initiatives, reducing emissions, and preventing food from ending up in the trash.
Each fresh food item has unique characteristics that dictate how its stored, how quickly it goes bad, and more
Most of us who’ve purchased a highly perishable product like fresh blueberries know what it’s like to find the fruit mushy and inedible just a day or two later. And despite our best efforts, this type of food waste happens because fresh food is more variable than most of us understand. Every fresh item has a unique set of characteristics that affect how long that single piece of food stays fresh once it reaches grocery store shelves. Managing perishables is never an easy task—read more about it here.
Empty shelves at grocery stores aren’t just due to consumers buying more than expected
Once we launched Afresh, digging into grocery store data quickly surfaced a host of challenges that lead to empty shelves. While consumers do drive stockouts in some cases, a lack of technology and the inherent complexity of fresh food really impact how much is on the shelf at any given time. And when it comes to replenishing products, most grocery retailers are using error-ridden data or manual systems to place orders. That means thousands of stores are ordering too much or too little every week, leading to a huge imbalance in available product across the fresh food supply chain.
People are central to the success of any fresh department
Fresh teams put an incredible amount of heart and passion into their work, doing everything in their power to make sure their communities have what they need. Keeping that human connection is a must when it comes to creating technology for fresh teams and as a mission-led company, we’ve built a solution that centers both agility and empathy. Unexpected events and outliers are inevitable in fresh, and that makes human insight a core component of any ordering process for perishables. Afresh empowers store teams to make decisions rather than automating it away for them. So when a store’s small town is having an upcoming apple festival, the person writing an order can adjust quantities to make sure customers don’t show up to empty apple displays.
Enterprise account manager, Sam H., joined the company in 2021 and she echoes the human-centered sentiment we strive for at Afresh: “The #1 thing I've learned is the power of really understanding and CARING about your partners. The empathy we have for our partners shows up in how we design our products, how we interact with our partners, and how we run our internal processes: always with the customer in mind,” said Sam H., Enterprise Account Manager at Afresh. “In my time at Afresh, I’ve been impressed by how thoughtfully our products have been built. They’re designed to make the lives of our end users better.”
At Afresh, we learn something new every day. It’s not a cliché; it’s pivotal to the work we do. With our mission leading the way and our values of kindness, candor, proactivity and humility part of every conversation, we’re building the future of fresh food with technology that’s never been available in the market until Afresh.
Explore our 2021 Impact Report to find out how you can grow your career in sustainability, social impact, and technology when at Afresh. And in the meantime, stay focused on fresh as we launch the Fresh Operating System into thousands of grocery stores across the US, maybe even the one you shop!