As a topic, digitalisation and food covers much more than just ordering online from a delivery service and posting pictures of your lunch on social media. Apps that let you track your delivery in real time, smart fridges and digital supply chains featuring highly efficient schedules and minimal interruptions – these are already perfectly normal. And it’s just the beginning. Digitalisation is dominating our food culture and producing large amounts of data related to purchasing, consumption and behaviour patterns. Much more than people can keep track of on their own. The answer is self-learning algorithms that work with ‘big food data’. These recognise patterns and will soon know when, what and where we eat – with ovens, refrigerators and multifunctional blenders featuring vast data storage capacities.
An increasing number of manufacturers in the food industry are also putting their money on digitalisation. Technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, cloud computing and smart sensors have the potential to change production processes in the long-term. The benefits are clear: enhanced product quality, lower energy consumption and improved processes.
Digitalisation as an opportunity to improve planning
Digitalisation can already be found all along our food’s supply chain. Data is generated at every point through which each product and its ingredients passes. This creates a forecasting system that allows planning all the way back upstream, from fork to farm. These forecasting possibilities are also a great opportunity to reduce food waste. Retailers, suppliers and restaurateurs alike can use the data for things like improving their calculations – how much milk to buy next week, for example, or how many steaks to order – and only produce or offer those amounts. METRO also has a demand-based supply chain strategy to keep inventories as high (or low) as required to meet customers’ needs: Integrated Planning.
‘Today, a supermarket can calculate with 70% probability how much milk it will move off the shelves next Wednesday. And in future, a food truck will be able to use scaling software to figure out fairly precisely how many pastries it can sell on a rainy Friday morning in April in XY Street in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood. The pastries will be made with wholewheat flour, because the software knows that 80% of the street’s residents like wholegrains,’ says food activist, publicist and consultant Hendrik Haase in an interview with SZ.de. METRO expert Dr Volker Glaeser shares this assessment: ‘In an increasingly digitalised world, we are helping our customers – the independent restaurateurs – to understand digitalisation and data, to implement the elements of data optimisation that are most important for them, and thus to improve their business. Where do the customers who visit my website come from? How can I stand out better from the competition? Is my menu calculation on target? What’s the best way to book tables in order to maximise capacity? These are all questions that we can answer using our digital tools to give our customers a digital helping hand.’