Dubai: Have you ever wondered whether the supermarket you visit sells its entire stock of fruits, vegetables, bread and other edibles? Well, the simple answer is no. So then, what happens to the stuff that goes waste?
In a bid to get some answers, Gulf News recently visited some outlets of the Choithram chain in Dubai, where the UAE-based retailer provided a behind-the-scenes lowdown on how the supermarket manages its waste.
With 41 stores across the UAE and a centralised kitchen and distribution system, Choithram’s supply chain is perhaps among the biggest in the country.
Smitha Vijay, the chain’s QHSE Operations Manager, said, “Beginning with providing suppliers with specific requirements based on average sales, we work backwards to try and eliminate wastage at every point of the supply chain.”
Very broadly, the supermarket’s edible products include fruits and vegetables, both imported and local, fresh foods, hot and cold, meats, fish and poultry, bakery produce, dairy and dry foods like cereal, chips, nuts, baby food etc.
How each of these categories is dealt with when it comes to procurement, storage, display or waste management is determined by what is called “demand planning”.
An Auto Replenishment Planner (ARS) in our system is able to arrive at a consumption pattern based on the average sales data we feed, so we know how much of chicken biryani or salmon we need on a weekday vis-à-vis the weekend
“Let’s take hot foods which are the most perishable. What hits the shelves is what we are able to sell – and we manage this quantity based on our demand planning and forecasting,” said Rehana Raj, Retail Operations Manager at the DIFC Choithram outlet.
“An Auto Replenishment Planner (ARS) in our system is able to arrive at a consumption pattern based on the average sales data we feed, so we know how much of chicken biryani or salmon we need on a weekday vis-à-vis the weekend,” she explained.
It’s the same principle that works with salads and other fresh foods in the chiller display.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, what is displayed on the shelves is only a fraction of the available stock inside. The display is regularly replenished from the rest of the stock that remains fresh inside the cold storage.
Vijay said, “We started minimising the inventory of food items in all our retail stores and supply chain from 2018. We have also sourced special units for fruit and vegetable display, which help reduce overstocking and eliminate wastage.”
She said Choithram has a central distribution and consolidation centre at Al Aweer where all the imports come in and are then distributed to the stores. The retailer also has a facility in Al Ain for local produce.
While the in-house bakery stuff is produced at 10 different production hubs, those that are outsourced are brought in by suppliers. Dairy products, oils, sauces and dry foods are also delivered to individual stores by the suppliers, based on quantities specified.
First in, first out
Stringent application of first-in-first-out and first-expiry-first-out policies help reduce waste substantially. But despite the best efforts, wastage is inevitable.
Vijay said typically, products that are brought in by suppliers are returned to them upon expiry. While expired fresh foods and fruits and vegetables traditionally go into landfills, Vijay said Choithram is now is looking at decomposting the perishables.
She said Choithram had recycled 41.27 tons of food waste in 2019 through Dubai Municipality as its approved recycler.
The retailer said it also manages its excess produce through donations. “As of now, this is with respect to breads and bakery stuff. We have donated 37.23 tons of safe food to the UAE Food Bank. The bank’s vehicles come to us every morning to pick up the donations, mainly breads, cakes and pastries.”
Choithram, which partnered with World Food Programme (WFP) to stop food wastage, has also helped raise $2 million to support WFP’s food assistance programme in the Middle East and West Africa, where Choithrams operates, she added.
In October last year, Choithram also launched a campaign to reduce food waste. Preventing food wastage, as the campaign urges, begins right from shopping smart and storing right to recycling and donating excess food.