SPAR Austria Turns to AI, Data to Minimize Food Waste

The company has developed a solution that enables more targeted order suggestions and demand forecasts for its stores.

September 19, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—SPAR Austria is minimizing waste through digitization. Although only 1% of the food offered in-store goes unsold, the retailer is looking to bring this down further by using data and AI for goods ordering and supply chain management.

In cooperation with SPAR ICS (the company’s IT unit), Microsoft and other partners, SPAR Austria has developed a solution that enables more targeted order suggestions and demand forecasts for all SPAR, EUROSPAR, and INTERSPAR stores. Using AI, a new IT solution from SPAR ICS analyses data on sales volumes, weather conditions, marketing promotions, seasonality and other factors to produce a precise forecast of optimal product order quantities per store.

An automatic ordering system that has been in place at SPAR Austria for decades formed the basis of the new system, according to the company, and has been tested in the fruit and vegetables area. The new system offers a prediction accuracy of over 90%, meaning that the right amount is available in the right store at the right time, thus further reducing food waste.

“The advantages are manifold—not only for SPAR Austria, suppliers, customers and team members—but above all for the environment. In this project, SPAR uses the potential of technology and AI to meet the needs of our customers and save resources at the same time,” said Markus Kaser, SPAR Austria board member for IT, buying, marketing and CSR.

“The predictions are a valuable support for team members involved in the ordering process. AI does not replace previous processes but rather complements them. The optimization of the supply of over 1,500 stores also has a positive impact on the work of our 40,000 in-store team members,” said Hans K. Reisch, SPAR Austria’s deputy chairman of the board.

SPAR has put together a broad set of measures to counter food waste in retail and in households. The most important instrument is ordering optimization. Additionally, products that are close to their best-before date are sold at a reduced price on a separate shelf or via Too Good To Go or donated to social organizations. Every SPAR, EUROSPAR and INTERSPAR store in Austria has a fixed charity partner located close to the individual store.

In August, SPAR Austria announced it was saving energy by reducing the hours it uses its lighting systems in SPAR, EUROSPAR and INTERSPAR stores nationwide and using LED lighting. These LED systems were developed specifically for SPAR Austria’s needs in cooperation with Austrian manufacturers and have been the standard in all new and converted SPAR stores since 2011. The latest generation of these light sources uses 80% less energy than the fluorescent tubes and spotlights used previously.

NorgesGruppen ASA won the 2021 NACS European Convenience Retail Sustainability Award for its SPAR Snarøya store in Norway. NorgesGruppen operates the KIWI, MENY and Spar grocery chains in Norway.

The 2023 Convenience Summit Europe is set for May 30 to June 1 in Dublin, Ireland. Sign up to be notified when registration opens.

Join food safety, foodservice, quality assurance and risk management professionals for the inaugural NACS Food Safety Conference on Saturday, October 1, the first day of the 2022 NACS Show in Las Vegas.

The 2022 NACS Show, October 1-4, in Las Vegas includes four education sessions on foodservice: Menu Optimization: Think Like a RestaurantGlobal Foodservice Trends & MenusFoodservice Analytics: The Recipe for Success and Gulp! Reinvigorated Dispensed BeveragesRegister today to attend the NACS Show.