No matter the answer, there are some givens: It has to taste good, be good for you, and be affordable. But when you’re shopping with limited time, how can you be sure you’re buying the freshest apples, milk that will last, or perfectly ripe bananas?
We think our new intelligent food system called Eden can help. Developed in just six months by our own associates, it is improving the quality and flow of fresh groceries from farm to shelf.
Eden is the result of a friendly competition, or hackathon, among the engineers on our fresh merchandising teams. Our goal was to figure out the best way to keep track of food freshness all the way from the farms to our stores. The winning team determined that building a digital library of food standards was the answer. So they gathered the many chapters of food product specifications set by the USDA, layered on Walmart’s own rigorous product standards, and combined all of this information with more than a million photos to create a freshness algorithm that prioritizes the flow of perishable goods worldwide.
As a result, Josh Bohling, senior designer of associate experience design, and I have filed two patents for Walmart, and Eden is now the cornerstone of Walmart’s move to improve the quality of fresh produce for sale to our customers.
Eden leverages sophisticated technologies such as machine learning, but we’ve made it simple enough for all of our associates to use. Eden’s suite of apps helps Walmart associates better monitor and care for fresh fruits and vegetables that are waiting to be shipped from distribution centers to stores. That could mean more efficiently ripening bananas, predicting the shelf life of tomatoes while they’re still on the vine, or prioritizing the flow of green grocery items from the back of the store to the shelf.
For example, take everybody’s favorite, the banana. This tasty fruit is consistently among the best-selling grocery items in Walmart’s U.S. stores. Bananas travel from seven countries in Latin America to over 4,000 stores in the U.S. On such a long road, what happens to those bananas if temperatures in the container trucks exceed acceptable ranges? In the future, Eden will be able to recalculate the freshness factor and re-route the shipment immediately. The bananas end up in a closer store to optimize freshness, consumers take home a delicious bunch, and everyone is happy.
Eden also helps eliminate food waste. Our goal is to eliminate $2 billion in waste over the next five years. Already, Eden is being used in 43 distribution centers and has prevented $86 million in waste from happening.
What was once a manual inspection process is now more efficient and thorough than ever. We’re proud to say that we’re the very first retailer who has digitized this entire process. Thanks to the power of technology, we’re able to bring you and your loved ones the freshest food, even faster.