The Product Expiration Blind Spot

The Product Expiration blind spot at supermarkets today are caused by multiple issues that include:

  • A Lack of Priority from Management and Associates at the Store level
  • A Lack of Urgency to Implement Solutions at the Corporate level
  • Trends of Increased Product Line Expansion
  • Current Ineffective Solutions

In this article, we unpack these four issues to investigate the current problems with product expiration at both the store and corporate level.

The objective is to educate on the problems both known and unexplored, in order to increase awareness and bring about consideration for a plan action.

We conclude with possible costs of doing nothing and an alternate approach to managing your product expiration.

The Cause of Blind Spot on a Store Level

Today, the answer to reducing product expiration is standard product rotation. But, based on increased complexity within the store, it is easy to accidentally neglect making product expiration management a priority – creating a natural blind spot.

Management & Associates

Employee morale can be a large problem with product expiration at the store level. Hourly and entry level associates are the main source of labor to carry out the spot checking and there has to be concern with their emotional care of rotating an entire shelf of ketchup.

There may also be too many tasks taking up the priorities of these associates, therefore the 5-10 hours a week assigned to them to spot check, may either be halfheartedly executed, or not done at all depending on the workload assigned to the individual.

Due to the very hectic and overwhelming nature of the supermarket industry ,the associates and management have to pick and choose what they can get done—usually resulting in rotation and spot checking being pushed aside as a focal point.

Obviously at the store level, there is a sense and drive to prioritize customer satisfaction by having good service, in stock products, clean and safe shopping environment, and quality products.

If the customer is the priority, then the conversations must then be geared towards how to prevent the potential negative experiences of a customer purchasing and consuming an expired product.

The Cause of the Blind Spot on a Corporate Level

At corporate level, there is no program in place to catch all the expired products sitting on the shelves at the stores. The Date Check Pro team on average finds over 2,000 units per store of expired products, usually exceeding the expectations of their clients.

From a Profit & Loss standpoint: An exceptional customer experience is a goal for every supermarket, which includes not selling expired products. But expiration management is typically viewed as a 100% labor expense with very little ROI. In truth, the average grocery store loses more than $63,000 per year in expired product per year in the grocery, dairy, and processed meat departments alone. With the right method in place, date checking can provide an ROI, while providing significant improvements to customer experience.

Supermarkets need to re-prioritze this process due to the hidden cost associated to customers having a bad experience with their brand and switching to an alternative.

Events that Cause Corporate to Take Action Against Product Expiration

  1. Clean out of a store. What is referred to as a burning fire – going through an entire store front to back and gathering expired products typically shows management and corporate level management that product expiration is significant problem and therefore requires new processes centered on product rotation.
  2. Negative customer feedback on social media related to expired products. Consumers posting about purchasing expired products at your store is picking up in relevance. With the advent of social media apps like Yelp, customers have the platform to voice their opinions to a much larger audience than most store owners think.
  3. Media gets involved. In case of an Illinois supermarket, a curious blogger decided to investigate product expiration in the store and wrote about discovering 100’s of expired products on the shelves. This garnered massive media attention that brought a lot of negative press to the supermarket. Or a

The Cause of the Blind Spot due to Product Trends

An acronym known in the industry as FIFO or First in First Out is one of the first defenses against the ongoing problem of product expiration in grocery retail stores. However, a decade ago, you could walk down an aisle for ketchup and find competing brands on the selves for the same product.

Today, the product trends have evolved so much, that you are now met with not only competing brands, but multiple varieties of what used to be one product.

Every Year the Items per Product Line are Increasing.

Stores have a Siracha and Olive Oil ketchup taking up the SKU space, while the shelf space is still 4 to 8 feet wide, but the number of offerings in that section are constantly increasing. These brands are competing with one another but also attempting to dominate the entire section.

The goal today for these brands is to get the customer to think which type of Heinz they want to purchase not which brand of ketchup they’re going to buy. This increase of product line expansion has impacted the amount of labor required to rotate effectively.

The blind spot then becomes obvious when a manager has limitations on the following:

  • Number of Staff
  • Labor Hours
  • Amount of Inventory In Need of Stocking Per Day
  • Supermarkets Increasing in Size
  • Expectations
  • Competing Standards

Understanding the Current Ineffective Solution

Spot checking has become the standard process for quality control that does not ultimately increase the amount of labor hours for product rotation.

Essentially, an associate is told to go down an aisle and check everything in a given category, pull down the product, check all the dates, and properly rotate according to FIFO—to the standards of a 52 week schedule.

Examples of category sections:

  • Salad Dressing = Quarterly
  • Baby Food/Formula = Monthly
  • Noodles = Yearly
  • Cereal = Yearly

Every store has their variation of spot checking and carries out the process differently. Having customers in mind, supermarkets are actively dedicating an amount of time on a daily and weekly basis using the spot check method to ensure their customers are getting quality products.

Even with scheduled spot checking, based on our research – an average 23 units are expired per every 100 SKUs checked.

When multiplied by even just the total number of SKU’s within the center store (approx. 8,000-10,000 – the number of expired products can be bigger than you imagine.

Wrapping Up

With more customers shopping locally and at higher frequency, it is more important than ever to have the best possible experience.

The reason supermarkets like HEB, Wegman’s, and Publix continue to see success is because they listened to the market.

The market complained about:

  • Lack of Service
  • Cleanliness <– Even more important today due to COVID-19
  • Freshness
  • Quality

In truth, many retailers are starting to understand and see that the competition no longer solely focuses on price, but a high quality experience.

If you are not Wal-Mart, then you fall into the category of providing the best possible service to bring back your customers future business.

Expired products will not hurt Wal-Mart like they can hurt your supermarket—especially when you differentiate your brand in the market by having higher quality products and experience.

What’s my solution?

Date Check Pro is leading the charge in providing retailers with more options to maintain these standards of quality, care, and satisfaction to the level your customers have come to expect from your supermarket. We’ve helped grocers prevent more than 12 million expired products across leading grocers such as Raley’s, Vallarta, and Lunds & Byerlys, and were named the 2019 Wisconsin Grocers Vendor of the Year.

To learn more, schedule a Consulting Call or book a Demo at a time that works best for you with the calendar below: