Expired Food: The Monumental Task Of Managing It

by Cody Sheehy | Jun 27, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Keeping store shelves free of expired food can be a much more difficult task than it appears on the surface.  If you have ever picked up an item on the shelf that is a few months past the expiration date, you might find yourself wondering how that is possible.  However, when you take a step back and look at the whole store, it isn’t that surprising.

Many grocery stores are carrying 30,000 to 40,000 items that constantly need to be restocked.  The center store grocery department will usually have anywhere from 3,000 items to up over 10,000 items depending on the size of the store.  In a larger store, there can easily be 15,000 different items that have an expiration date on them.  That is 15,000 different SKUs, and they each likely have 10 or more products sitting on the shelf.  Now, you all of a sudden have at least 150,000 individual products (15,000 SKUs x 10 items per SKU) with an expiration date to be concerned about.  If you were to go through an entire store that had exactly 150,000 products to check the date on, taking six seconds per item, it would take you 250 hours.  However, the problem with that estimate is threefold.

First, there are likely even more than 150,000 products that you would need to check.  While some bigger items (like cereal) will have only 4 or 5 products on the shelf, others will have 30 or more.  Second, six seconds is easy when you’re checking the items on the front of the shelf, but it takes much longer to reach items at the back of the shelf.  The reality is that 250 hours to sweep the store one time is a very optimistic estimate.

The last thing that needs to be considered is the fact that this type of sweep would need to be done constantly, because new items are going to wind up expired every day.  No matter how good someone is at rotation, there will simply be items that do not sell and end up expiring.

Even if you were to complete this task on a monthly basis, you would need more than one full time employee, 160 hours, to do it.  You would also still be running the risk of food expiring on the shelf in that month between when products got checked.

Unless you can target your hours by using a software solution like Date Check Pro, the reality is that a grocery store cannot invest enough time in checking for expired food.  The situation is a double edged sword, because it would drive prices up to cover the additional labor costs. High prices would drive customers away just like purchasing expired food.

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