Meanwhile, the company’s been splurging on warehouses these past few years, which will support its goal of same-day delivery. Since 2012, Amazon has added 50 new facilities to its network, with five more in the U.S. added this year.
According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s spending on fulfillment jumped more than 40 percent annually from 2010 to 2012, compared with 24 percent in 2009.
USDA Computer Glitch Causing Problems
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that a “technical glitch” in a new computer system used by inspectors at over 6,500 meatpacking and processing plants across the U.S. was shut down for two days in August, resulting in millions of pounds of beef, poultry and pork being shipped before it could be properly checked for E coli and other contaminants. Despite the computer failure, the USDA says there have been no reports of tainted meat being sold or consumed.
Two years ago, the USDA invested $20 million on a new computer system that was designed to improve food safety by streamlining the inspection process at meatpacking and procession plants, allowing for real time information and the ability to track problems before they turn into outbreaks. But since the system’s launch in 2011, inspectors have consistently complained of crashes, glitches and problems.
The USDA has tried to downplay the problems in the past, with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) director Alfred Almanza claiming the issues have little to do with the system and more to do with the lack of wireless networks in rural areas where plants are located. But this admission, along with another admission that computer issues caused “problems with meat sampling at 18 plants in 2012” is making it difficult for the USDA to earn the trust of industry and consumers when it comes to food safety.
Grocery Shopping Gets Its Tech Game On
When it comes to technology in the grocery store environment, the introduction of the bar code scanner in the 1970s was the last ‘big thing.’
“You have an industry that’s been kind of stuck in time,” said Scott Mushkin, a grocery retail analyst at Wolfe Research, in a recent Los Angeles Times article. “Grocers have to invest. Their business models have been under so much pressure, they’re fighting for their lives.”
In response, grocers have been rolling out some new technologies to improve shoppers’ experience. Ralph’s—a Southern California grocery chain owned by Kroger—is testing QueVision, a system that uses hidden infrared cameras with body heat trackers to determine the number of shoppers in the story at any given moment. The information is used by managers to deploy extra cashiers when it gets busy.
A spokeswoman from Ralph’s says QueVision has slashed the amount of time it takes to get to the front of the line to about 30 seconds compared to the national average of four minutes.
Walmart’s PTI Deadline Nov. 1 For Fresh Produce
Walmart says it will start rejecting fresh produce shipments at its DCs starting November 1 if the shipments do not have labels compliant with the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI).
The development is welcome news for PTI’s leadership and others in the industry who say the buy-in from Walmart will give others the necessary push to establish their own deadlines to start using PTI compliant labels.
“Eco-Eating” on the Rise
Consumers’ desire to eat ecologically responsible foods is on the rise, and it’s extending beyond the grocery stores to restaurants and hotels, according to a recent article in Sustainable Brands.
New research entitled the Eco-Eating Culinary Trend Mapping Report states that “eco-eating takes many forms, typically starting with organic dairy and produce and moving on to plant-based proteins.” In addition, “While in the past it may have been sufficient to stop there and call it an eco-progressive meal plan, today progressive diners and food shoppers are beginning to think about their eco-eating footprints and are looking for sustainable choices in all sorts of new places.”
Among the trends gaining momentum from an interest in eco-eating are: Edible Packaging; Protein-Packed Insects; Restaurant Gardens and Hotel Beehives; New Sustainable Seafood Choices; Grass-Fed Beef; Meatless Family Meals; and Today’s Tofu, which has become tastier and more mainstream than in previous years.