RFID tracking tags have already been in use in the food supply chain for decades. They make it possible to track the temperature stability of perishable foods, for example. 

But even bigger changes are coming. What if you could walk into a grocery store, fill up your cart, and then walk out without waiting in line?

RFID could make this commonplace. It’s also poised to reduce food waste, offer consumers greater transparency in the supply chain, and boost food quality.

Here are the changes you can expect to see in your local grocery chain soon.

Reductions in Food Waste

As a customer, you may not actually know just how much of the food on your local supermarket’s shelves gets tossed into the dumpster every night.

In the U.s. alone, about 30 percent of the food on supermarket shelves gets thrown away, for a total of 16 billion pounds of food waste every year from retail stores.

RFID tracking can help. Food retailers already use RFID temperature indicators to monitor the temperature of perishable foods in transit. Once the food arrives at the store, RFID tracking tags allow retailers to get a detailed view of important inventory information.

For example, retailers are now using RFID technology to monitor expiry dates, so they can discount items for sale before they get to the point of having to be discarded.

They can also use RFID tracking data to figure out which items they’re selling the most of in a given area, so they reduce food waste by ordering fewer of the items that don’t sell well while still meeting consumer demand for popular products.

Better Inventory Management

Retailers of all kinds can see reductions in revenue from sloppy inventory management, but the granular level of detail that RFID tags offer can help food and other retailers manage inventory more effectively to mitigate those losses.

For example, whenever a customer wants an out-of-stock item, that’s a lost sale.

They’ll probably go somewhere else to get it. If they stop looking for it in the original store, that original lost sale can add up to a series of lost sales.

Instead, food retailers are now using the data they can harvest from RFID tracking tags to create better models for inventory management.

By understanding which products customers want the most (and least) of, and how long it takes those products to sell, food retailers can manage replenishment much more adeptly, for more satisfied customers and fewer lost sales due to insufficient stock.

Increased Transparency on the Supply Chain

With food recalls getting more common in the United States, and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, consumers today want a higher level of transparency in the food supply chain than ever before. RFID technologies are being used to provide that transparency.

Now, retailers can track a food item from its source to the final point of sale, to offer customers the degree of transparency they’ve come to expect. 

Of course, it’s not just the consumer who benefits here. Product recalls are no joke — they can cost retailers millions of dollars in lost inventory and reductions in consumer confidence.

With increased transparency into the food supply chain, retailers are better equipped to handle any food safety risks that emerge, potentially before the affected items can reach customers and make them sick.

Frictionless “Smart” Shopping

For the most part, you might not see or notice the changes that RFID technology is bringing to your supermarket.

But someday soon, your local grocer might implement “smart” shopping technology that will allow you to bypass what may arguably be the most annoying part of the shopping experience — the checkout lane.

Smart shopping trolleys can use RFID readers to scan items as you put them in your cart, allowing you to simply fill up your trolley and leave the store without worrying about scanning your items or paying at the register.

These smart trolleys would charge your groceries to your card on file, so you can truly get in and out of the store quickly. 

When it comes to the food industry, RFID tags are already somewhat old hat. They’ve been used in the food supply chain for decades, but now food retailers are getting into the game.

The technology has become cheap enough to allow food retailers to use RFID tags throughout the store and warehouse, to monitor inventory and expiry dates, streamline the shopping process for customers, and more.

It’s only a matter of time until these changes come to your local grocery store.