Sell-by date management

An often discussed issue in the food and beverage industry is that too much food is thrown away

  • Roughly one third (some 1.3 billion tonnes a year) of foods produced for human nutrition is thrown  away worldwide
  • Germany records eleven million tonnes of food waste from any stage in the value added chain

Sell-by date management is a key requirement in food logistics

The sell-by date on food packages tells grocers how long to keep items on shelves and tells consumers how long properly stored product can be consumed without loss of taste and quality and without risk to their health. The time span during which a product meets customer expectations is also determined by other criteria such as visual appearance, smell and consistency of fruit and vegetables for example. The length of this time span is primarily influenced by material handling & logistics along the value added chain with the appropriate storage temperature and an unbroken cold chain as the most important factors. Maintaining the cold chain can be difficult as different products have different temperature requirements. The risk of a broken cold chain poses another challenge for handling logistics, i.e. to distribute foods and beverages as fast as possible or, if ideal temperatures cannot be provided, to keep the time span with suboptimal temperatures as short as possible.

Food waste split up by economic sector (tonnes/year)
University Stuttgart
Stuttgart, 2012

Logistics requirements

  • Compact storage and transport of goods in compliance with product specific temperature requirements
  • Temperature-controlled FIFO in-feeding and out-feeding of goods
  • Easy control of sell-by dates, production batches and product lines
  • Permanent access to all reference lines on stock
  • Speeding up order collation to support distributors

Future outlook: Dynamic sell-by date management

  • Target: Maximum shelf life at optimum temperature conditions
  • Temperature measurement and documentation: RFID transponders combined with measuring devices to record external conditions along the value added chain such as temperatures, exposure to light and other indicators of product deterioration (i.e. gases allowing conclusions about the degree of fruit ripeness)
  • Result: sell-by dates will be adjusted downward – i.e. if products have been subject to unfavourable temperatures at any point of the logistics chain – and special handling as a follow-up measure

Food shelf life

Food shelf life
Sell-by dates will be adjusted downward if a product has been kept at inadequate temperatures or if ther negative influences have occurred during storage and transport

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