Afresh announced today that its artificial intelligence (AI) platform for grocery retail management will be used by Heinen’s markets. Afresh’s software will be used in the fresh departments across Heinen’s 23 stores in Cleveland, Ohio and Northern Chicago.
Fresh food inventories (produce, bread, etc.) are trickier to manage for grocery retailers because of the perishable nature of those products. For stores, the goal is to have enough inventory on hand so they don’t run out (and lose sales), but not so much that the food goes bad on the shelves.
Afresh’s platform promises to use machine learning to analyze customer data and predict demand. With that knowledge, retail managers can better stock and manage their inventory.
Heinen is the latest public customer to adopt Afresh’s software, and the deal comes just one month after Afresh raised $12 million in funding.
Afresh isn’t the only company using AI to better manage grocery inventory. Crisp also uses data and AI to help grocers keeps their shelves stocked, and Farmstead is a Bay Area-based online grocer that is built around just-enough inventory managment.
Given that Afresh’s platform looks at consumer data, and that the COVID pandemic abruptly shifted grocery buying habits on a national scale (food shortages, record online grocery shopping), I asked Afresh CEO Matt Schwartz by phone this week if and how his product was affected.
“In some ways COVID was a test case for our overall structure,” Schwartz said, “Ultimately we’re building the system for edge cases and supply interruptions.”
Schwartz said that Afresh’s overall mission is to help grocers maintain steady inventory and weather sudden shocks to the system, so there aren’t barren shelves and people can get food, especially fresh food, when they need it most. Perhaps in a couple months Heinen’s will let us know.