Industry Insights

The Pivotal Role of Ordering in Optimizing Meat Departments

Industry Insights

The Pivotal Role of Ordering in Optimizing Meat Departments

As the most influential department on the store's perimeter, meat drives significant foot traffic and sales for grocery retailers. The meat department also presents a unique opportunity for grocers to differentiate themselves from competitors. Recognizing this, industry leaders like Albertsons are increasingly looking towards Afresh’s innovative solutions to better serve their communities.

At the meat counter, higher profit margins hinge on successfully navigating risks like perishability and variable consumer demand. Addressing these factors requires a nuanced approach, and grocery trailblazers are increasingly keen to leverage AI-powered technology to set themselves apart.

Why Accurate Ordering is Foundational to Departmental Success

An accurate and efficient store ordering solution forms the backbone of an optimized meat department. It ensures that store associates are well-equipped to balance stock levels, control shrink, and keep display cases full while ensuring customer satisfaction. 

Getting this right means navigating various complexities unique to the meat department. Four obstacles stand out in particular:


As with most fresh departments, meat managers must consider varying shelf lives for diverse products when placing orders. Particularly prevalent in meat is the need for department managers to track perishability for case-ready products (like chicken breasts), production products (like hamburger patties ground in-store), and subprimals that are broken down in-store. This requires a more dynamic and responsive approach to inventory to maintain accurate numbers and full display cases. 

Variability in Meat Processing

As subprimals are transformed into smaller cuts, there's considerable variability in the size and quality of these cuts. Variability stems from differences in animal sizes, butchering techniques, and even the specific part of the animal being processed. These factors can lead to variations in products that complicate inventory management and pricing strategies.

Fluctuating Consumer Demand

Fluctuating consumer demand adds another layer of complexity to store operations. While meat’s high substitutability offers consumers flexibility, it also makes demand patterns less predictable. External factors like inflation can lead to a spike in demand for more affordable meats, while supply chain disruptions may constrain consumers to opt for alternatives, making it incredibly difficult for meat managers to accurately predict demand.

Overcoming Manager Bias in Ordering

Department managers may have personal preferences that unconsciously influence their ordering decisions. For instance, a manager favoring beef over pork might order more steaks than chops, leading to an imbalance in the product mix.

Navigating Uncertainty with Afresh 

Grocers seeking to lead the market with their meat departments can no longer rely on one-size-fits-all technology and solutions adapted from center store to fresh. Critically, most of today’s systems are not built to recognize and respond to the data uncertainty stemming from the above challenges – let alone from fresh-specific factors like frequent display shifts, seasonality, and multiple product grades.

In contrast, Afresh is built on cutting-edge machine learning designed to navigate this variability and uncertainty, allowing grocers to adapt to the unique requirements of every fresh department – meat included. 

Let's delve into the four ways Afresh optimizes meat department management:

Transformative Inventory Management with AI

Most solutions on the market rely on traditional perpetual inventory, where inventory is considered a point value. The problem is that inventory data is notoriously inaccurate in fresh. 

Instead, Afresh considers inventory positions as probabilities and calibrates estimates based on various factors that influence fresh inventory, including perishability, multiple product grades, in-store transformation, and more. This shift towards a more dynamic method of inventory estimation ensures more accurate and efficient ordering.

Tailored Automation for Enhanced Efficiency

Afresh's store ordering solution offers tailored automation, blending AI's computational power with human input where it matters most. For each order, Afresh intelligently detects which items can be automated versus which require a lightweight review by the store team. This hybrid approach ensures orders are accurate while significantly reducing the reliance on manual, labor-intensive tasks.

Reduced Shrink through Accurate Ordering

By accounting for a broad spectrum of meat-specific factors influencing consumer demand and perishability, Afresh's solution enables grocers to fine-tune their ordering strategies. This holistic approach significantly reduces shrink, driving higher fresh profits and reducing food waste.

Empowering Associates with Intuitive Technology

Afresh’s platform empowers store associates with an intuitive, user-friendly interface, enabling them to quickly make informed decisions. This accessibility ensures that department managers can efficiently place orders that maximize profits while keeping shelves stocked. 

With Afresh, grocers can seamlessly navigate the complexity and uncertainty of the meat department, delivering fresher products to their customers and more profit to their bottom line.

Albertsons Paves the Way for A New Paradigm in Meat

Albertsons' adoption of Afresh across its 2,200 stores marks a transformative shift in their strategy for meat department management. Leveraging Afresh's intuitive interface – as well as AI-powered order recommendations and automation – Albertsons knows their store associates will be able to accurately order complex and perishable items, ultimately reducing shrink and boosting sales. 

By adopting Afresh, grocers can ensure they meet customer demands with the right products at the right time, reduce waste, and enhance overall profitability. The future of meat department management is here, and it's driven by Afresh.

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