Fresh Food

SpartanNash aims to fine-tune retail fresh operations

Family Fare grocery stores set to pilot Afresh AI-driven ordering and management system.
Family Fare supermarket-SpartanNash
Plans call for SpartanNash to test the Afresh platform at 10 Family Fare stores in the Grand Rapids, Mich., market. / Photo courtesy of SpartanNash

Distributor SpartanNash plans to pilot Afresh Technologies' fresh-food optimization platform at 10 Family Fare supermarkets, part of its roster of corporate-owned and -operated retail grocery banners.

The artificial intelligence-powered Afresh predictive ordering and inventory management solution will be used to sharpen fresh department operations at the Grand Rapids, Michigan-area Family Fare locations, helping to reduce shrink, accelerate stock turns to provide shoppers with fresher product and, in turn, boost sales and profits, SpartanNash said Thursday. No timetable for the technology rollout was disclosed.

Designed specifically for supermarket fresh-food sections, Afresh’s platform supports forecasting, ordering, inventory, merchandising and store operations functions. On its website, Afresh reports that its system adds over two days to fresh food post-sale shelf life, a benefit for customers and for SpartanNash, as real-time insights based on shopping habits maintain inventory levels and freshness, cutting down on food waste.

“Our partnership with Afresh will help SpartanNash deliver fresh produce to our store guests while also minimizing food waste, which is a key focus area for our company’s ESG efforts,” SpartanNash Chief Merchandising Officer Bennett Morgan said in a statement. “Leveraging the strength of artificial intelligence and digital workflow will provide our associates with insights to create solutions that benefit our corporate retail store guests.”

San Francisco-based Afresh said on its website that stores using its system have slashed food waste by 25% and out-of-stocks by 80%, at the same time lifting chainwide monthly sales by 3% on average and improving labor efficiency by 20%.

SpartanNash-Afresh fresh food ordering management system

Afresh's solution provides fresh department managers with predictive ordering tools driven by real-time insights. / Image courtesy of Afresh Technologies

“The more time our associates save in the forecasting and ordering process, the more time they can spend on the floor serving our store guests,” according to Tom Swanson,  executive vice president and general manager of corporate retail at Grand Rapids-based SpartanNash. “SpartanNash will continue to implement innovative solutions that improve our shoppers’ in-store experience and help us deliver the ingredients for a better life.”

Adoption of the Afresh platform reflects a key tenet of SpartanNash’s recently announced growth strategy: leverage data to drive insights and act on insights to drive solutions. That has led to a new fresh-food own brand called Fresh & Finest, launched in response to consumer research and loyalty program insights and offering products across fresh departments.

At its first Investor Day in early November, SpartanNash — whose businesses include food distribution, military distribution and supermarket retail — unveiled an accelerated growth plan that projects the company to top $10 billion in total sales (or 12% growth from a 3% compound annual growth rate in 2021) by 2025.

SpartanNash also announced a plan to consolidate retail banners from about a dozen to four. With the move, the company will create a three-tier retail structure: a conventional supermarket segment under the Family Fare banner, an upmarket segment under the Martin’s Super Markets and D&W Fresh Market banners, and an ethnic segment under the Supermercado Nuestra Familia banner. Two stand-alone Forest Hills Foods/Ada Fresh Market locations also will remain.

Overall, SpartanNash now operates 147 grocery stores in Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Besides the aforementioned banners, the company’s roster of supermarket names has included VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket, Family Fresh Market, Fresh Madison Market, No Frills, SunMart, Dillonvale IGA and Econofoods.

SpartanNash executives noted that its retail segment helps the distributor stand out from competitors because it brings a trove of valuable operating and shopper insights.

“Building on our insights, our retail teams develop a detailed plan to ensure consistency of execution in a local hometown experience every time shoppers visit our stores,” Swanson said in a video presentation at the investor event. “Our strategy includes added investments in our people, differentiated above-and-beyond customer service, a better in-stock position and new shopper loyalty benefits.”

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