It goes without saying that technology plays a key role in the business sector.

The Shoprite Group is not being left behind in the evolution as seen with their introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning in its stores to help address food waste and other logistics issues.

The supermarket group, which is South Africa’s largest private-sector employer, said a key function of the technology is learning to predict sales at its stores and avoid unnecessary wastage.

“Replenishment orders are placed automatically, to ensure that stock is always available for customers while simultaneously reducing food waste,” said Sanjeev Raghubir, the Shoprite Group’s sustainability manager.

Raghubir added that various parameters are considered by the AI model – including what products to stock and when.

“For example, a store close to the finish line of an annual sporting event will automatically be replenished with additional convenience meals for that single day of the year,” he said.

He added that the biggest efforts go into preventing food waste and losses before they occur. The group does this by reviewing its ordering, replenishment and ranging processes, using data analytics to identify food waste hotspots.

“For example, by optimising the product range in its delis, the group reduced food waste by 11% in that department,” he said.

The Shoprite retail group has an entire business unit dedicated to the use of innovative technologies – known as ShopriteX. This unit was partly responsible for some of the group’s biggest recent successes including its popular Sixty60 delivery programme.

At the end of 2021, it indicated that it was trialling an automated, cashless “no queues, no checkout, no waiting” concept store.

“We are serious about being Africa’s most customer-centric retailer, and the launch of ShopriteX represents our investment in fit-for-the-future precision retail, which is increasingly digital and data-led,” said Pieter Engelbrecht, Shoprite Group chief executive at the time.

“The next era of growth for us is about precision retailing. ShopriteX will use our rich customer data to supercharge a ‘Smarter Shoprite’ and ultimately fuse the best of digital with our operational strength across the continent.”