Smartway’s AI helps Auchan fight against food breakage

Auchan is stepping up its fight against food waste in France. “It is a priority fight included in our strategic plan. Despite the clear gains made in recent years, we needed to accelerate…”assures Pierre Olivier Delpierre, director in charge of strategic projects at Auchan Retail France where, three months after his arrival, the brand new general manager of the retail group in France, Philippe Brochard has decided to use artificial intelligence. to optimize processes in all of the 349 stores in the French network over the next three months.

“On this scale and in this time frame, it’s unprecedented”, rejoices Christophe Menez, co-founder of the Nantes-based startup Smartway, the originator of the Food Waste Management System (FWMS) solution, capable of detecting short-dated products as early as possible, choosing the right recycling channel and apply the appropriate discounts.

According to Smartway, these actions could reduce food waste by 30% in each store. At Auchan, food breakage represents 1.3% of turnover.

In 2021, 19 million meal equivalents were donated to associations. And 390,000 baskets were offered via the Too Good To Go anti-waste movement for short-dated products. “We have become more professional over time, with regard to the evolution of regulations. Smartway is a new step, which will allow us to digitize a practice and a gesture that has until now been exclusively manual”notes Pierre-Olivier Delpierre.

Give the product a second chance to prevent it from ending up in the trash

Created ten years ago in Nantes to fight against food waste in supermarkets, Smartway was already innovating with the creation of the first “Zero Waste” departments (its original name) in stores.

“The first idea was to highlight products with a short deadline, D-1 for meat; D-3 or D-4 for dairy products, etc., so that everyone can intervene on waste »recalls Christophe Menez, co-founder of Smartway with his brother Paul-Adrien and Nicolas Pieuchot, a childhood friend.

Over the years, the approach has become more professional until the development of the Food Waste Management System (FWMS) platform which optimizes the entire end-of-life chain of a product. “In concrete terms, we are digitizing information and making it easier for store staff to work, instead of performing manual work, they receive information and alerts on a terminal. It’s a huge time saver, we make the process more reliable and we give the product a second chance instead of it ending up in the trash.”, explains the co-founder of Smartway. The heart of the approach is based on the management of data capable of predicting the resale of a product.

Extension of the system to an entire network, a first in France

To develop its own artificial intelligence, the startup has collected a decade of data, which it crosses with store databases (assortment, resale, etc.), on which are grafted weather information, calendar or external events . A solution that Smartway has already developed in 400 points of sale since its creation (Système U, Intermarché, Carrefour, Leclerc…).

“But, with Auchan, this is the first time that we have developed the system for an entire network, with which we had to make our system and theirs coexist”, specifies Christophe Menez.

To go further, gain market share and support its development in France and internationally, Smartway, already present in Romania, Belgium, Spain and Portugal, raised 10 million euros in March 2021 from Supernova Invest, Evolem Start, Holnest, Idia Capital Investissement and the Crédit Agricole investment fund, Unexo. Objective: reach 4,000 points of sale in 2025. “Reducing waste is good, but what we are looking for is to become smarter to reduce or adapt order intake, erase store errors…”, outlines Christophe Menez, whose solution integrated into Auchan’s business project should quickly change scale.

Restore purchasing power

And this is one of the issues claimed by Auchan. “The first step in food waste is to make a good order. And AI will help us improve the quality of the ranges, have a better view of the evolution of sales and the markdown of products to, in the future, improve the reliability of the adaptation of the ranges in stores, and at the In the future, we would like to go as far as “unpacking” solutions which would make it possible to resell at a reduced price a pack of yogurt, one of which is damaged”projects the director in charge of strategic projects at Auchan Retail France, where the operation carried out with Smartway aims to contribute to the digitization of the company, the improvement of the working conditions of employees, whose job was complex, and included a high risk of errors.

“Between product detection, label printing, travel between offices and shelves, employee time will be divided by four”assures Pierre Olivier Delpierre. “That’s as much time as they can devote to welcoming the customer. By detecting short dates earlier, we also restore purchasing power to the customer, whereas with manual work, it was sometimes too late to sell at a reduced price or to make a donation.he said.

The massive deployment of an ecological and economic performance tool

Promptly presented by Smartway staff at the end of January, the operation was adopted at the beginning of February and implemented in mid-March in three pilot and efficient stores in Saint-Herblain, near Nantes, La Brède (Bordeaux) and Poitiers- South.

To date, the device is deployed in 35 hypermarkets and supermarkets where 800 people have been trained to use the system. Auchan, which also sees it as a tool for economic performance and has invested in a fleet of new terminals, estimates that it will eventually train 25,000 to 30,000 employees. Two hundred new stores should have deployed the solution in May and the entire network in June. With the key, the ambition to save 12,000 tons of food products and 25 million meal equivalents per year. An environmental impact estimated at 32,000 tonnes of CO2. According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), annual emissions per Frenchman amount to an average of 11 tonnes of CO2 per year.